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A Union-Built Bridge to Success in Civilian Life

Union apprenticeship programs are transitioning veterans from protecting our nation to building it


Joseph Upton, US Marine Corps Veteran and now a member of the Ironworkers Local Union 7. -- Photo Credit: Helmets to Hardhats

When veterans hang up their uniforms and transition to civilian life, they must grapple with the daunting task of reinventing themselves and finding a new role in society. It's more than just a job search—they’re looking for a new career and fresh chapter. A collection of construction unions including brick layers, electrical workers, carpenters, iron workers and more, have come together to offer them a way forward.


H2H, a nonprofit organization backed by fifteen of America’s largest construction trade unions, acts as a pipeline, connecting veterans to unions that value their military-honed skills including discipline, teamwork, and adaptability. These skills will be essential as they begin their journey to membership in a trade union. Standards are rigorous and an apprenticeship program can include hundreds or thousands of hours of intensive in-classroom and on the job training. Just like training for any branch of the armed forces, not everyone will make the cut. But those who do will be the best in the world at what they do.

H2H is a true win-win, made possible the dedication on the part of construction unions to training and apprenticeship programs— initiatives not present in the non-union sector. The construction industry has been facing chronic and severe labor shortages. At the same time, our country's finest are leaving the service equipped with skills and character that meet the demands of the construction industry, but without a path to a career. Construction unions, in partnership with H2H, are solving both problems at once, turning the best soldiers in the world into the best tradesmen in the world.

America’s largest construction trade unions act as a pipeline, connecting veterans to unions that value their military-honed skills including discipline, teamwork, and adaptability.

It is a game changer for our veterans. Apprentices earn qualifications that help them thrive in their new careers. As they achieve union membership, they can feel secure in knowing they will receive fair pay, benefits and the ability to provide their families with a solid middle class life. It's not just about getting a job; it's about achieving the American dream. It’s what trade unions have provided workers for centuries. 


Helmets to Hardhats is not just an organization; it's a union-built bridge, leading our country's heroes from military service to rewarding civilian careers, courtesy of construction unions. 


If you support our veterans, remember to ask: “who built this building?” 


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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