DCN ARCHIVES

April 11, 2011

Helmets to Hardhats helps Vets transition to a career in construction

Helmets to Hardhats is designed to connect Canadian military veterans with construction careers in Canada, allowing them to now build a country they served, says a program advocate.

“At the end of the day, this program is the right thing to do for what veterans give for us,” said Joe Maloney, International Vice-President and Chairman of the Canadian Executive Board of the Canadian Building Trades.

“To give them options for when they transition to private sector life, it is the fair thing to do.

“The program is non-partisan. Regardless of who is in power; Canadian Veteran Affairs will always be there. All the political parties have endorsed it.”

The federal government committed support to Helmets to Hardhats in its 2011 budget presented in March but Parliament was dissolved just days afterwards, stalling any further development of that commitment.

The program has now become a plank in the veteran affairs strategy for all three major federal parties as they campaign leading up to the May 2 election.

“The program is a win-win-win,” Maloney said.

“It is good for the veteran since it gives them transition options, it is good for Veteran Affairs because the workers are placed in good-paying construction careers and for our industry, we have a lot of work now and coming up, (so) there is ample opportunity.”

Maloney and his team have lobbied Canadian government for just over three years to have the program implemented in Canada. Maloney is one of the founders of the program in the United States where it was established in 2003.

Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association, has also been involved in lobbying with Maloney.

He said the challenge for veterans transitioning to civilian life was starkly highlighted for him through his involvement with Toronto’s downtown Good Shepherd Centre homeless refuge.

He talked to Brother David Lynch, executive director of the centre, about Helmets to Hardhats and Lynch said it would be a “great thing.”

“I asked him, ‘What do you mean?’ ” Laird recalled. “He told me he had 30 homeless soldiers in the downtown refuge alone, which shocked me. I could not believe it, so we doubled our efforts.”

At the core of the proposed program is a web-based system, open to all Canadian military personnel, disabled veterans and Canadian reservists. A veteran can make a request in the system, highlighting the geographical area and construction career they want to work in on their transition to civilian life.

“If they want to be an electrician in Toronto, the system will line them up with the appropriate organization in that area. If they want to go be a construction supervisor, the system lines them up with that,” Maloney explained.

Contractors and organizations that want to participate in the program have to meet certain criteria such as having benefit and apprenticeship programs and a commitment to lifelong learning and training. Both unionized and non-unionized contractors can participate.

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