A former Canadian air force top gun from Nova Scotia is helping military veterans land skilled civilian construction jobs through the Helmet to Hardhats prorgam. “This is providing our deserving vets a terrific career opportunity — not just a job, but a career opportunity — to build the country they defended overseas and to add to their community, one project at a time,” said retired brigadier-general Gregory Matte. Matte, former task force commander for all Canadian flying operations in the Balkans, is the executive director of Helmets to Hardhats Canada, a non-profit program established two years ago that helps veterans get training and jobs in the building and construction sector.
The program, largely funded by private industry and building and construction trade unions, grew out of a similar initiative established 12 years ago in the United States. “The whole idea was that they had a shortage of skilled workers in the building construction industry in America and at the same time they were seeing a lot of veterans coming back from the Iraq invasion and different missions,” Matte said. “They were scratching their heads, wondering how could they match the veterans to the work required because they knew the vets had with them the discipline, the work ethic, the team effort that would come together naturally.”
Matte said working with organizations such as Mainland Building Trades, which represents 11,000 Nova Scotia tradespeople in the industrial-commercial-institutional sector, gives veterans a tremendous opportunity to gain valuable training.
“Regardless of what the military vet has in the way of previous military training, they are given an opportunity to get all the training required to become a journeyperson in one of 60 different trades.”
Mainland Building Trades executive director Brad Smith said his organization was happy to be involved in the Helmets to Hardhats Canada initiative. Smith said many military skills are transferable to professional trades, and his organization can help vets make that transition through training and apprenticeships. “At some point, we’re going to need those skilled trades so it’s a recruitment opportunity as well.”
Matte said regional economic projects such as the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the Canada East Pipeline have the potential to allow veterans to retire in the Maritimes and enjoy new careers.
“It’s a pleasure to strengthen the relationship between the Helmets to Hardhats program and the local building trades organizations so as to be well positioned to capitalize on these opportunities,” he said.
Capt. Angus Topshee, base commander at CFB Halifax, said the Helmets to Hardhats program offers veterans rewarding career opportunities.
“To have a program dedicated exclusively to Canadian Forces members making the transition from active duty to full-time employment is absolutely wonderful,” he said.
For more information visit: http://www.helmetstohardhats.ca/en/home.htm