Companies can contribute to program helping veterans find careers

SMART Heroes provides course to help veterans enter sheet metal apprenticeship

FAIRFAX, Va. – Veterans transitioning to civilian life have many options. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle, honorably discharged veterans can start a new career – and possibly a new life anywhere in the country – with SMART Heroes, a program that introduces veterans to unionized sheet metal through an intensive course.

Since the first class last fall, more than 60 veterans have graduated from the seven-week program, and the its creators want to give companies, corporations and organizations the chance to support the military veterans who will continue to complete the program and start the next stage of their lives with a monetary contribution.

“We think it’s a positive for our employer community,” said Charles Mulcahy, director of craft services for SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “It’s an opportunity for a sponsor to thank a veteran for their service.”

To date, the program has four corporate sponsors including silver sponsors Ullico Inc. (Washington, D.C.); bronze sponsors Southern Benefit Administrators (Goodlettsville, Tennessee) and Slevin and Hart, P.C. (Washington, D.C.); and other sponsor Soirees Catering (Las Vegas). Sponsors can give a set amount to accomplish silver or bronze, or a custom amount of their choosing.

“At Ullico, we value and respect the service of our nation’s veterans,” said Cori Houlihan, manager of corporate and events for Ullico Inc., a union-centric insurance and investment company. “We are proud to partner with the SMART Heroes Program as it equips veterans with the skills needed for a successful career in the unionized construction industry.”

The program was created through a partnership including SMART; the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry; the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ Association (SMACNA); Sheet Metal Workers Local 66; SMACNA Western Washington; Western Washington Sheet Metal training center and Helmets to Hardhats. The McChord Field Education and Training Center provided support to the program by helping identify and screen potential candidates.

The ITI, which develops the curricula for more than 150 sheet metal training facilities across the United States and Canada, developed a training program specifically for veterans transitioning from service, and all training is focused on areas experiencing the greatest market demand: industrial/welding, architectural, testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) and 3D building information modeling.

SMART Heroes includes the classroom and hands-on learning equivalent to a first-year apprenticeship (224 hours). Upon honorable discharge from service, SMART Heroes graduates may choose to enter any of the 150-plus SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year sheet metal apprentice, including a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits.

Introducing military members transitioning to civilian life to a career where they earn a good wage with benefits and a pension is the least they could do, Mulcahy said.

“That’s all stuff we’re delivering through SMART Heroes. It’s a good career,” he added. “And donors can help by making a contribution.”

More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at over 150 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, the ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit the website or call 703-739-7200.