Q: I am a military vet. My father and grandfather served in wars. I want to help returning vets from Iraq, even if they are disabled. Are there any organizations training vets for jobs in construction? Is there anyone I can turn to who places vets in jobs? What can I personally do? I think they deserve more than a good word. I want to give them a good job.
Leonard Toenjes

A: A creative new program has been put in place in the last 24 months to help make the connection between the need for employment of returning veterans and the upcoming workforce needs of the construction industry.

This program for helping returning veterans find jobs in the construction industry is called “Helmets to Hardhats”. The Web site at www.helmetstohardhats.org is has a broad range of information for returning veterans about careers in construction. It includes information about the specific skills for various trades, and contacts for training and apprenticeship opportunities.

To help get that first job, this Web site also provides a job placement service for employers who are interested in hiring these brave individuals for the construction industry. Either returning veterans or employers can log onto the site, create an individual account and either look for a job or an employee. The site is operated under contract with the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans’ Employment.

In addition to information about construction careers, the Web site provides information about veterans’ benefits, some success stories about returning veterans who have been placed in employment and a variety of other resources. Providing this information to returning veterans organizations or community organizations is a great place to start spreading the word and helping the veterans.

Training Vets

Concerning training veterans for jobs in construction, many apprenticeship programs are working to recruit from veterans organizations, as illustrated with the “Helmets to Hardhats” model. Additional placement services are certainly available through local workforce investment boards, in addition to the “Helmets to Hardhats” cooperating employers.

When asking what you can personally do, one of the more touching programs I have heard of is being supported by the AGC of South Dakota called “Operation Opening Doors.” With this program, the association rallies the construction support services that are needed to remodel and refurbish the home of a returning veteran who has been disabled and needs special accommodations added to their home.

Both financial support and construction support is provided to make home modifications that can allow a returning disabled veteran and their family to continue to live comfortably in their home, or even provide a new home, both free of charge to the veteran. A personal commitment to organize this effort in your town would certainly be more than a good word.

Whether spreading the word to returning veterans about career opportunities, helping employers become knowledgeable about on-line placement services, or helping individual veterans and their families, you certainly keep alive the idea that freedom isn’t free.

Leonard Toenjes is the president of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis. He can be reached at 314-781-2356 or ltoenjes@agcstl.org. Visit the organization’s Web site at www.agcstl.org.