SMART Heroes marks fifth anniversary, celebrates 30th class of graduates

Seven active-duty members of the U.S. Army graduated as the 30th class of the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, Sept. 26, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont. This graduation also marked the program’s fifth anniversary.

Graduates included Spc. Abraham Bibeau, Spc. Hector Cardenas, Sgt. Shane Erickson, Spc. Andrew Houry, Sgt. Tyler Petersen, Sgt. Zachery Simpson and Sgt. Kyle Willett.

Featured speakers during the graduation included Mike Harris, ITI administrator; William Noland, Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and Kenny Branson, SMACNA Western Washington.

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.

“This program has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities in the outside civilian world,” Petersen said. “I’ve been able to map my new career during this transition, leaving less stress.”

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

SMART Heroes, which 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.