Five active-duty members and three veterans of the United States military graduated as the 27th class of the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, April 11, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont.
Graduates represented members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps and included Sgt. Chris Ashby, veteran, Marine Corps; Cpl. Jacob Cooper, veteran, Marine Corps; Cpl. Eduardo Figueroa, veteran, Marine Corps; Petty Officer 3rd Class Josue Guevara, Navy; Spc. Tyler Jackson, Army; Sgt. Zachary Vasquez, Army; Sgt. Jamal Ramsey, Army; and Sgt. Ismael Ochoco, Army.
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 civilian career once they’re discharged from the military.
In order to graduate, participants completed the seven-week course, equivalent to their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 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.
“Everything about the program was helpful,” said Cooper, who worked on military aircraft and has had his eyes on sheet metal work since before he enlisted. “The instructors did an outstanding job at keeping us well informed and interested in the topics we were learning as well as explaining said topics perfectly. Also, all of us got along really well and had fun every day.”
The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the ITI, the education arm of the unionized air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI, together with SMART and SMACNA, developed 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 during the graduation included Mike Harris, ITI administrator; Travis Elliott, business agent, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66; and Kenny Branson, SMACNA Western Washington.
SMART Heroes, launched in August 2017 in Washington, provides sheet metal industry training through an accelerated seven-week program for active-duty U.S. military men and women and recent veterans who plan to enter civilian life within the year, assisting with their successful transition to the civilian workforce and a satisfying lifelong career in the sheet metal industry. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.