Roughly one million dollars is needed to successfully fund a Canadian version of the Helmets to Hardhats program that finds sustainable careers in construction for returning war veterans. Just like American soldiers, Canadian military men and woman are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to a stagnant job market, making for a rocky transition into civilian life.
Helmets to Hardhats is expected to be fully operational in Canada by January 2013, according to the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record. Joe Maloney, International Vice-President and Chairman of the Canadian Executive Board of the Canadian Building Trades, helped create the American program and lobbied the government of Canada to create their own.
“Employers are quite eager to get this going because they’re going to want to use this not only for getting top quality candidates, but also maybe entry level managerial, entry level engineering, etcetera.”
Many American employers enjoy helping out veterans but also see the program as an excellent way to find quality workers. Those who fought valiantly for their countries are often successful in adapting to the business sector due to their highly disciplined military backgrounds. Further, the physical toll of the military often prepares men and women for a life in the construction trades. An alleged skilled labor shortage has caused Canada to facilitate an influx of foreign workers, but with training made available by programs like Helmets to Hardhats, that will hopefully not be as needed:
“A lot of people are looking at bringing in foreign workers, but we don’t believe that’s necessary in all cases. We’d like to offer the jobs to these guys who are out there working for us right now,” he said.
ISCA worked with the Good Shepherd homeless shelter in downtown Toronto for 15 years, which estimates about 10 per cent of clientele are ex-military.
“They come back and they don’t fit in very well because of all the stuff that they’re exposed to,” explained Laird.
“The good thing about [Helmets to Hardhats] is we let them know five or six months before they come out that there is a job waiting for them. If you can get them to work right away, hopefully they won’t fall by the wayside and end up in places like the Good Shepherd Centre.”
The Canadian Forces transitions about 5,200 members to civilian life every year.
A fundraising dinner will be held on May 23rd at the Paramount Conference and Event Centre, at 222 Rowntree Dairy Road in Woodbridge (Toronto) to gather more starting funds for this important program.
Speakers at the Helmets to Hardhats dinner will include the organization’s new executive director, a member of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blanley and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Laird has no doubt it will sell out.
“This one here, everybody really, really, really wants to help and are very supportive of our troops.”