Level up beyond “just a job”

As you look toward leaving the military and transitioning to the next chapter of your life, you will see many industries offering jobs for veterans. A job will earn you a paycheck, but a career can bring you to the next level, putting you in charge of your trajectory and offering you ways to contribute to an industry and your community.

A rewarding career will provide a salary guaranteed to increase, paid vacations, a pension and insurance comparable to veterans’ benefits. It will also challenge you, providing opportunities to grow and learn with industry-recognized comprehensive education and training. A career will open doors to new opportunities, introduce you to a wide range of contacts and give you options to travel.

The sheet metal industry provides rewarding careers for veterans by building on skills you already have. Life after the Army, or any military service, can feel like starting all over again — but your experience and skills can put you on the fast track in sheet metal apprenticeship, even before you have been discharged.

Here’s a quick guide on what you can expect at different levels of your sheet metal journey.

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    Level 1: Get a jump-start now with SMART Heroes

    Enroll in the SMART Heroes program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington or Fort Carson in Colorado and complete seven weeks of hands-on training. Upon discharge from service, you can apply to any of the 148 training centers in the United States to complete your apprenticeship. Once accepted into the program, you’ll begin training in the exciting, diverse and challenging sheet metal industry. Get ready.

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    Level 2: Get paid to build your skills

    Upon completion of the SMART Heroes program, you will be enrolled as a second-year apprentice and receive a good wage and benefits. You will have access to support provided to all union members and will start to understand the brotherhood and sisterhood of union life. At job sites, you’ll be alongside journey-level workers who have been through the same training as you, so watch and listen. In the classroom, you’ll work with the same tools you see on the job. Like any educational experience, the more you put into this training, the more you’ll get back.

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    Level 3: Choose a quest

    Spend some time deciding what specialties interest you the most:

    • Commercial HVAC
    • Architectural Sheet Metal
    • Detailing
    • Service & Refrigeration
    • Testing Adjusting & Balancing
    • Residential HVAC
    • Sign Industry
    • Industrial/Welding
    • Roofing

    Though offerings differ regionally, your initial training will give you some idea of the skills and demands for each of these specialties. Your instructors and training coordinator will work with you to review your choices. Once you choose a specialty, you will begin focused training in that area.

    In the final two or three years of your apprenticeship, your training center will make every effort to assign you to a company that works in your chosen specialty. Continue to work hard, study hard, listen and learn. Everyone on the job — the journey-level workers, supervisors, site manager and company management — want you to succeed and are ready to help.

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    STEP 4: Heroic level

    As you take your oath to become a journeyperson, you’ll know the education and training you’ve received prepares you to be a productive, efficient, skilled trade worker from your first day as a journeyperson. And this education never ends — in the years ahead, you’ll get plenty of opportunities for advanced continuing education, specialty certifications and training in new technologies. You’ll be doing valuable work that will make a difference in your community, whether it’s shaping a city skyline or ensuring hospitals and schools have safe air. Your trajectory can stop here, or you can choose to level up further.

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    STEP 5: Legendary level

    The experience you’ve gained, coupled with your training, has created a solid foundation you can build upon by accepting new responsibilities. Are you a leader? A problem solver? A strategic thinker? As an apprentice, your studies covered these areas, along with some principles of business and management. If you seek additional training or even certification in supervisory skills, there are many paths upward. Whether it’s becoming a foreperson on the jobsite or a business manager at your union local, there’s room for you at the top. But, if you think the top isn’t high enough…

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    STEP 6: Boss level

    Starting your own business is not for everyone. You’ll have the pressure of meeting a payroll, being responsible for a team of skilled people, taking on projects and meeting deadlines. As infrastructure projects and new industries spring up across the country, the sheet metal industry has grown to provide the labor necessary. This has opened up many opportunities for new business owners to carve out their own niche. Although you may be competing with men and women you’ve worked with over the years, you will find them ready and willing to help you get established. There’s plenty of work for union companies that play fair, work hard and satisfy their customers. Even at this highest level, your training remains a valuable resource in understanding how a job gets done and how our industry adds value for the entire community.

Visit our locations page to find a program near you.