Companies contribute to program helping veterans find careers

SMART Heroes provides course to help veterans enter sheet metal apprenticeship

FAIRFAX, Va. – To date, more than 10 classes and 142 veterans have graduated from SMART Heroes, a program that introduces veterans to unionized sheet metal through an intensive course. Corporations and organizations around the country are taking note and lending their support.

The seven-week program gives honorably discharged veterans a start to a new career — and possibly new life — anywhere in the country as an apprentice at one of more than 148 training centers. The course, equivalent to a first-year apprenticeship, provides graduates direct entry as second-year apprentices.

The creators of the program wanted to give companies, corporations and organizations the chance to support these military veterans 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 15 new sponsors since Fall 2018. Monetary donors include Wiersgalla Co. Inc, Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Vidimos, Inc., East Chicago, Indiana; R.E. Lee Mechanical Contracting, Inc., Tucson, Arizona; Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) Hawaii, Honolulu; Sheet Metal Workers Local 46, Rochester, New York; and Jamar Company, Duluth, Minnesota.

Bronze ($5,000) donors include API Group, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota; The Kelly Companies, Cheverly, Maryland; and Sheet Metal Workers Local 83 and Capital District SMACNA, Clifton Park, New York.

Silver ($10,000 to $15,000) donors include Ullico, Inc., Washington, D.C.; Segal Consulting, Chicago; New York City SMACNA, Brooklyn, New York; and ACCO Engineered, Santa Clarita, California.

Platinum ($50,000+) donors include SMACNA, Chantilly, Virginia; and Bay Area SMACNA, Oakland, California.

“There is a clearly significant benefit to our industry bringing these brave men and women who have served our country into our training programs and business operations,” said Paul Irwin, president of Bay Area SMACNA. “We, as business owners, receive the benefit of hiring a highly skilled and motivated individual who has already demonstrated the maturity and dedication necessary to be a successful employee.”

“Individuals, like these veterans, possess a strong work ethic, have an innate pride in the work they accomplish, thrive in a team environment and are committed to safety,” added Vince Sandusky, president of SMACNA national. “These qualities are exactly what we look for when we recruit individuals to our industry. It’s a win-win.”

SMART Heroes also gives the industry a prime location from which to recruit.

“Our industry is struggling to attract men and women into the building trades. What better place to start than this initiative?” said Milt Goodman from ACCO. “It helps our industry, and our transitioning heroes, what’s better than that?”

Recruiting, training and retaining military veterans in the unionized sheet metal trade is not only good for the individuals, it’s good for their communities, said Edward M. Smith, president and CEO of Ullico, Inc., a long-time sponsor of the program.

“We share SMART Heroes’ commitment to making a positive impact on the communities in which our veterans work and live. Their efforts to help veterans transition from military to civilian life is incredibly important, and we proudly support it,” Smith said. “The Institute’s work coincides with our mission to rebuild, strengthen and protect communities through meaningful investments.”

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 Joint Base Lewis-McChord Career Skills Team provided support to the program by helping identify and screen potential candidates. A new SMART Heroes program is in development at second location. 

The ITI, which develops the curricula for more than 148 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 was created to give new veterans an opportunity for a career, and it continues to do just that with the help of corporate sponsors,” said James Page, administrator of the ITI and the SMART Heroes Foundation. “We’re appreciative of the support this program has garnered from all the sponsors in order to make it the best it can be.”

SMART Heroes includes the classroom and hands-on learning equivalent to a first-year apprenticeship (224 hours). The training is provided free of charge, typically while the service member is still enlisted. Upon honorable discharge from service, SMART Heroes graduates may choose to enter any of the 148-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 148 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, 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.