November 2014

Helmets to Hardhats: Strengthening Our Union

Like many veterans of the Armed Forces, Maxwell Svader enlisted in the Army in 2010 to help provide a better life for his wife Mariana and their two children. Max served proudly in the United States Army. His experience there taught him how to stay focused, dedicated to the task at hand, adapt to changes, and overcome obstacles. All positive attributes that will help him throughout his life.

After his discharge Max was having a difficult time transitioning from his life as a solider to that of a civilian.  “Once I arrived home, the transition wasn’t the easiest while living with seven people in a two bedroom apartment.” Max told us that, “It took time to find employment until coming across Helmets to Hardhats.” The Helmets to Hardhats program helped ease Max’s transition from being a United States Army veteran to becoming an ironworker apprentice.

Now a proud member of Iron Workers Local 416 in Los Angeles, he is currently working for CMC Rebar. His new career allows him the ability to work one job and take care of his family as his wife currently attends school. His career in the Iron Worker’s Union is off to a great start. In June of this year, Max was one of the top place finishers in the State of California and Vicinity District Council apprenticeship competition, which was held in Oakland, California. He represented his local union and district council at the National Apprenticeship Competition, held in Toronto, Canada on September 27 and 28.

Helmets to Hardhats is a Building and Construction Trades program that helps military veterans, National Guard, and reservists like Max get started in a career in the construction industry. In the past 10 years, Helmets to Hardhats has helped over 10,000 veterans make the transition to a career in the construction industry. Each year the U.S. military discharges between 150,000 and 250,000 service members. These numbers are expected to stay high in the coming years as our military forces downsize. This will provide a great opportunity for all of our local unions to reach out and hire qualified young men and women being discharged from the military directly into your local union. 

As a United States Marine Corps veteran and a Local 416 business agent, Rich Byrd sees the value in helping returning veterans. “Not only do they make great apprentices, they strengthen the entire local.” Many returning veterans in the Los Angeles area are participating in Local 416 Gladiator training. This is a hands-on boot camp introducing them to work as an ironworker. “Veterans are the answer to a skilled workforce shortage that could threaten the maintenance and building of our nation’s infrastructure.” While enrolled as an apprentice, veterans are able to utilize the Post 9/11 GI Bill that provides educational benefit payments for on the job training/apprenticeship. These monthly checks help provide extra income to veterans while learning the ironworker’s trade.

Ironworkers have always answered the call of helping military veterans. Whether it is offering quality training and an opportunity to a great career or helping to fund Helmets to Hardhats. Recently, First General Vice President and Tennessee Valley District Council President Richard Ward negotiated 2 cents per hour in their district council collective bargaining agreement. Each local union in his district council will now contribute $.02 per man-hour directly to Helmets to Hardhats in Washington, D.C.

Locals that post career opportunities on the Helmets to Hardhats website are seeing an increase in veterans applying to their apprenticeship programs. To improve outreach to our returning veterans, locals can create a profile on the Helmets to Hardhats website. This allows the local to post career opportunities and also allows them to search for veterans within their jurisdiction.

Ironworkers have always answered the call of helping military veterans. Whether it is offering quality training and an opportunity to a great career or helping to fund Helmets to Hardhats.