After serving their country, many veterans have trouble transitioning into civilian jobs, particularly younger and female service members. The unemployment rate among all veterans ages 18–24 is 21.3% (compared to 13.1% of civilians. And while male veterans have an unemployment rate (4.2%) lower than the national rate, female veterans are much worse off with a 7.9% unemployment rate. Helmets to Hardhats, the International Training Institute (ITI) and the construction trades are trying to do something about that problem.
The two organizations are working to bring in veterans, particularly female veterans, into apprenticeship programs at 153 unionized and sheet metal and air conditioning industry schools across the country. Veterans get direct entry into the school and other benefits (if they qualify). The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association are also partners in the efforts.
Katherine Kuczynski, a participant in the program, explained how her military experience meshed well with working in the sheet metal industry:
“Serving in the United States Navy prepared me for the physical and mental aspects of the sheet metal industry. The work is different every day and the discipline I learned in the Navy helps me to get the job done.”
Larry Lawrence, regional field representative/instructional development specialist for ITI, said:
“Although veterans have proven work experience, dedication and discipline, they have a higher unemployment rate than the everyday person off the street in the same age group. That doesn’t make sense to me. People with this military training and an honorable discharge should be able to work.”