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Female Military Specialist Turns IBEW Apprentice Through Helmets to Hardhats, Soldier for Life Programs

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Former Maryland National Guard member Kevin Burton is a proud veteran who has transitioned well to civilian life, becoming an electrician with the help of the Helmets to Hardhats program.   She spent six years in the military repairing ammunitions radar and left as a Specialist with a deep knowledge of electronics and troubleshooting skills.  After seeing an advertisement for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Inside Wireman Apprenticeship program — and realizing she already possessed many of the needed skills for the field — she began her career as a union electrician:  

IBEW offers three tracks for service members interested in career in the electrical trade: the Inside Wireman Apprenticeship, the Telecommunications Apprenticeship, and the Trainee Program. In 2006, Burton graduated from the five-year Inside Wireman Apprenticeship equipped with a broader knowledge base, connected to a network and job opportunities in her field, and 60 credits she could use toward obtaining a college degree. “If you’re interested in a trade, do an apprenticeship program. It’s the only way to go,” Burton said of her experience.

The U.S. Army Soldier for Life program helps lead soldiers like Burton to programs which will help them use their military skills in the civilian world.  Joining the IBEW’s program and beginning an apprenticeship carries no cost, meaning that Burton’s GI BIll money is returned to her.  Many veterans qualify for “direct entry,” allowing veterans who were honorably discharged to skip directly to the interview process.  

Burton explained that the program offers “structure and a clear chain of command,” adding: “In the military you know the steps to get to the next level or rank. Apprenticeships are set up the same way.” Another aspect that appeals to service members: camaraderie. “You’re automatically part of a team. I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I got out of the military.”

Burton gave the following advice for those read to transition out of the military:

“Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom again. The idea of starting as a first year apprentice may sound unattractive, but it’s definitely worth it.”


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