From military to civilian: SMART Heroes to graduate 21st class

New sheet metal apprentices include members of Army, Air Force, Marines

Ten active members of the United States military and three veterans graduated as the 21st class of the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, April 19, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont.

The graduates represented the ranks of the United States Air Force, Army and Marine Corps and include Senior Airman Mason Woodman, Air Force; Lance Dumo (veteran), Army; Sgt. Andres Lopez, Army; Sgt. Shane Sexson, Army; Sgt. Shayne Keiper, Army; Brett Kelly (veteran); Spc. Angelo Chavez, Army; Tim Spencer (veteran), Marine Corps; and Sgt. Justin Foster, Army.

The program helps participants learn a new skill set, which can lead to a new career once they’re out of the military.

Featured speakers included Joe Sellers, general president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers; Mike Harris, program administrator of the International Training Institute (ITI); Lance Deyette, business manager of SMART Local 66; and Rylan McKay, MacDonald-Miller.

Denis McDonough, United States secretary of Veterans Affairs, provided a pre-recorded message to play during the graduation ceremony. It’s an American responsibility to support veterans during and after service, he said.

“We must all work together to help fulfill our nation’s most sacred obligation. That’s why the president has put forth an ambitious plan to grow our economy with good union jobs,” McDonough said. “That’s how we can support all families, including yours. The SMART Heroes program is an important part of that effort, helping our veterans make that sometimes challenging transition from uniform service to civilian life. It is part of building a stronger, more resilient and more productive America.”

The video in its entirety can be found here.

In order to graduate, participants completed a seven-week course to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the more than 140 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.

The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the ITI, the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI, together with SMART and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), created the program in collaboration with SMART Local 66, SMACNA Western Washington, Western Washington Sheet Metal training center and Helmets to Hardhats.

The first SMART Heroes program was launched in August 2017 in Washington and was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to active duty U.S. Military men and women who plan to enter the civilian life within the year, thereby assisting in a successful transition into the civilian workforce. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.