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Aug
2011
9

Veteran Employment Program, Helmets to Hardhats, On USA Today’s Front Page



Helmets to Hardhats is a program, established and currently funded through a partnership between the Building Trades unions, that aims to put veterans returning from war to work on construction sites, to train them as apprentices in order to provide a lifelong career performing a highly skilled trade. The program is a requirement in all new Project Labor Agreements, the pre-hire contracts long sought by construction unions on large-scale public and private sector projects.

Today, USA Today has shined a little light on Helmets to Hardhats, referred to colloquially as H2H, in a story called “Combat Veterans Help World Trade Center Rise Again.” It is a touching story and worth a complete read. We have supplied a few excerpts below:

About a thousand workers are building five office buildings on the World Trade Center site — including the 1,776-foot centerpiece, WTC 1. For some, the job has a particularly special meaning. Labor officials estimate that a few dozen or more U.S. military combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, like Mohamed, are on construction crews working at the site.

They are here to restore what terrorists destroyed. An attack that prompted a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and led these veterans-turned-construction workers to war and then back to the ground where 2,753 people died.

“It’s not just a job. This is an opportunity for them to address the tragedy,” says Anne Trenkle, New York state director for the Helmets to Hardhats program that directs veterans, reservists and National Guard members to local construction jobs. “They feel very strongly about (it).”

****

Another worker, John Paul “J.P.” Cespedes, watched the black smoke billowing from the towers from an apartment building in Queens. A Marine by then, he would go to Iraq in 2003.

“You do get a sense of pride from the creation of a new tower,” he says. “You see the end result and you think, ‘Oh, yeah, I worked there. I helped there. I was there when they topped it out.’”

****

With the help of the Helmets to Hardhats program — which funnels combat veterans into construction jobs — he became a member of the Metal Lathers, Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46, and he started work on Tower 3 in May.

“It’s, like, amazing,” says Mohamed, who lives in Copiague on Long Island. “It really is, to be part of something so huge.”

He says he hasn’t been in a fight for a year, and his wife believes the job has something to do with it.

“He feels good going to work, and he’s proud,” she says.

Working at the World Trade Center for some people is “just a job,” Mohamed says. “But for us (veterans), it’s really, really personal. It runs deep.”

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