SMART Heroes’ eighth class to graduate in Colorado Springs

Military members prepare for civilian career in sheet metal after service

SMART Heroes graduated eight members of the United States Army, including one member of the Army National Guard, from its program Monday, April 19, at its Colorado location, Sheet Metal Workers Local 9, 1420 Quail Lake Loop in Colorado Springs. In order to graduate, service members completed a seven-week course to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours).

The graduates represent the ranks of the Army and include Sgt. Eric Stefanich, Sgt. Stephen Luke Rizza, Cpl. Javier Aponte, Sgt.1st Class William Hudson Jr., Sgt. 1st Class Scott Potempa, Spc. Benjamin William Menke, Staff Sgt. Andrew Collogan, and Spc. Trevor Guthrie, Army National Guard.

Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers 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.

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.

The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the International Training Institute (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 9 Colorado and its training center, SMACNA Colorado and Helmets to Hardhats.

Launched in August 2017 in Washington, the SMART Heroes program 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.