In its first year in operation, Helmets to Hardhats Minnesota achieved a major milestone – the organization assisted more than 300 veterans and active duty members in connecting with career training and employment opportunities in Minnesota’s building and construction industries.
“We’ve reached 4.25 times as many veterans in 2018 than we did the previous year,” says Justin Rost, the interim director of Helmets to Hardhats Minnesota and a United States Marine Corp veteran. “As of right now, 55 of the 300 veterans who contacted us for assistance have successfully transitioned from the Armed Forces into Minnesota’s construction industry and 15 more have completed apprenticeship programs and are waiting for a job offer.”
Helmets to Hardhats is a non-profit operating nationwide dedicated to helping National Guard, Reserve, and retired or active duty service members transition from military service to a career in the trades. The organization provides quality career training and employment opportunities within the construction industry. Minnesota is one of two states with a specific branch of Helmets to Hardhats dedicated to veterans who live and work in the state. Veterans who want to enter an apprenticeship program through Helmets to Hardhats must be at least 18 years of age, have an honorable discharge, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a drug test and complete a formal interview.
“This year’s success comes from our friends and partners in addition to us hitting the ground,” says Rost. “When I first stepped in as interim director, I was seriously impressed with the network of organizations and people who are ready to help veterans. I don’t know if you can find that in many other states.”
“We are extremely grateful for all the support that exists here in Minnesota for veterans,” he adds. “There’s no way we could have seen such an improvement in the number of veterans we’ve helped without the dedicated assistance from a number of groups.”
Organizations that have helped support the efforts of Helmets to Hardhats Minnesota, include:
The majority of the veterans assisted by the program have moved back to Minnesota after active duty, or have relatives who live in the state and introduced them to Helmets to Hardhats Minnesota during their transition training.
“Most of them are in their mid-20s, though we also get vets in their mid-40s who are retiring from the service,” says Rost. “A career in the skilled trades allows them to be physical, and they still have enough time left in their careers to work that many earn a pension in a skilled trade on top of their GI benefits. With all the networking that goes on in Minnesota, we’re able to get them working right away.”
Helmets to Hardhats Minnesota is part of the Construction Career Pathways Alliance, a statewide initiative involving trade unions, Minnesota’s largest construction companies, nonprofit training organizations, Minnesota high schools and the State of Minnesota. Funding is provided through the Construction Career Foundation, a Saint Paul-based nonprofit dedicated to fostering and developing construction career pathways for Minnesotans, especially young adults, women, and people of color.
To learn more about Helmets to Hardhats, visit www.constructioncareers.org or call the Minnesota office of Helmets to Hardhats, located in Saint Paul at 763-234-1446.