Twenty-eighth class graduates Western Washington SMART Heroes program

Western Washington SMART Heroes graduating class all standing in a line for a photoUpon completing a condensed training period designed to prepare them for a civilian career in sheet metal, four active-duty members of the United States military graduated from the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, June 6, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont.

The graduates represented the ranks of the United States Army and include Sgt. Michael Hooker, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Rodriguez, Maj. Jared Bowles and Staff Sgt. Xavier Latuszek.

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 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 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.

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

Guest speakers during the graduation included Ron McGuire, ITI program administrator; Lance Deyette, business manager, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66; and William Noland, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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.