The Helmets to Hardhats Program for Veterans

Construction trades jobs for former soldiers

Construction workers working on building
Program Connects US Veterans With Construction Jobs. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges facing many U.S. military personnel when returning to civilian life is finding a good job. The non-profit Helmets to Hardhats program from the U.S. Department of Defense is intended to help by connecting transitioning active-duty and reserve service members to jobs and training opportunities in the construction industry.

Launched in January 2003 with funding from the annual Defense Department Appropriations Bill, Helmets to Hardhats works through agreements with construction trades organizations and apprenticeship training programs to assist recently separated military personnel begin careers in construction soon after they apply.

Once registered, candidates in the Helmets to Hardhats program are given credit for training and experience they gained while serving in the military. Many of the apprenticeship programs offer paid training funded by the various construction trades’ labor unions.

While helpful, prior construction experience is not needed to participate in Helmets to Hardhats. In fact, says the organization, most successful job-finders start with virtually no experience in their chosen field.

Eligibility for Helmets to Hardhats varies depending on the standards set by the individual training and apprenticeship programs. In general, participants must be a least 18 years of age, have an honorable discharge, a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a drug test, and complete a formal interview.

Earn While You Learn

Most of the jobs available through Helmets to Hardhats are associated with long-standing, federally-approved apprenticeship training programs.

Training is provided free of charge to the veterans by the various trade organizations themselves.

Since all of the five year earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship training programs are approved and regulated by the federal and state governments, veterans can use their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while learning valuable skills and getting on the job training.

According to Helmets to Hardhats, the average annual salary offered by the construction industry apprenticeship programs is higher than the overall national average and more than 80 other industry apprenticeship programs.

What Trades are Needed?

Jobs available through Helmets to Hardhats cover the entire gamut of the construction trades industry; from manual jobs like carpenters, electricians, plumbers and bricklayers, to technical careers such as civil engineers and project managers.

Is This a Union-Only Program?

While Helmets to Hardhats is not a union-only program and does not require participants to belong to or join trade unions, the organization does require its associated employers to offer proven apprenticeship training programs that are registered and approved by applicable federal and state authorities. Many such training programs are related to related unions.

“In addition,” states the organization, “we seek to ensure that transitioning veterans are provided with wages and benefits that allow them to maintain an appropriate standard of living in the community where the career is located.”

Now Associated With the ‘Wounded Warrior’ Program

In what would seem to be the perfect marriage, Helmets to Hardhats joined up with the Wounded Warrior program, which works to connect disable veterans to jobs and training programs in the construction industry and related trades.