Military service members take first step into civilian life

SMART Heroes graduates 23rd class of new sheet metal apprentices

Six active members of the United States Army and two Air Force veterans graduated as the 23rd class of the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, Aug. 9, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont.

The graduates include Sgt. 1st Class William Corson, Army; Spc. Mack Pruitt, Army; Sgt. Brandon Hatch, Army; Sgt. Frank Cannon, Army; Senior Airman Albert DiDonato, Air Force veteran; Sgt. Asmoday Apolly, Army; and Staff Sgt. David Buckwise, Air Force veteran.

The program — created by the International Training Institute (ITI), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) — helps participants learn a new skill set, which can lead to a new career once they’re out of the military.

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 SMACNA, created the program in collaboration with Sheet Metal Workers Local 66, SMACNA Western Washington, Western Washington Sheet Metal training center and Helmets to Hardhats.

Featured speakers included Dan McCallum, executive director of the ITI, the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) and Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT); Lance Deyette, business manager, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66; and Kenny Branson, SMACNA Western Washington.

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.