July 30, 2012
Firms can find vets on website
Construction companies meeting the muster may soon be able to hire former military personnel with construction skills through a new website for Canada's Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program.
Construction companies will have to be signatories to collective agreements with valid apprenticeship training programs, said Joe Maloney, president of Canada’s newly-formed H2H program.
The companies must also be willing to provide health and pension benefits. Registration starts in September.
“We don’t want to exploit these people,” said Maloney
He said the H2H program will offer prospective construction companies two different levels of ex-military personnel.
There are those that will have some construction skills and those wanting to take up a new career.
“The companies and the unions will do the assessment,” he said, adding that some may have skills to be intermediate or senior apprentices or have the competency to write the journeymen’s exam. “Others may simply start an apprenticeship.”
The H2H program will give individuals leaving the armed forces a chance to find work in their chosen geographical area, perhaps a hometown.
Maloney said H2H ensures there is someone there to meet them when they arrive and support their entry into construction.
Since January’s launch, H2H has been fundraising and building case files on retiring ex-military service personnel and reservists.
The program also attempts to find placement for veterans, who have physical and mental disabilities.
“We are in very good shape,” said Maloney, with $150,000 from each of three governments (Alberta, Ontario and Canada) plus trade union and corporations donations yielding $3 million.
“We have hired the general,” said Maloney, speaking of retired brigadier-general Gregory Matte, currently housed in Ottawa’s Canadian Building Trades office pending permanent quarters.
“We are staffing up and building up our website and registration process.”
Currently, those seeking online information go through the U.S. H2H portal.
Maloney, international vice-president and board chairman of the Canadian Building Trades and the national director of the Boilermaker’s Union was instrumental in starting the U.S. H2H program in 2003.
He started it while serving as the international secretary-treasurer for the Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Toronto-born Maloney, who graduated Harvard’s trade unions program, returned to Canada in 2007 and set about recreating the H2H program at home.
“There was a serious skills shortage and there was a lot of military personnel transitioning back into the work force,” he said.
A hiring agency like H2H pipelining ex-military personnel into construction jobs was needed because “the military doesn’t understand the construction industry and the construction industry doesn’t understand the military,” he said.
Matte, as executive director, will use his knowledge to translate military skills into marketplace jobs.
“There are about 85 occupations in the military of which 14 appear as an easy transfer to the building and construction trades,” he said.
These include electrician, plumber, mobile support equipment operations, and construction engineer.
Five weeks into the job, he had compiled 25 files on ex-military personnel wanting construction careers.
Matte said he is assessing skills and putting personnel together with companies, who make their own arrangements for interviews.
He isn’t dealing with a huge volume of resumes.
Canada has 65,000 full time military personnel, 30,000 part-time reservists and yearly retirement rate of 4,000 to 6,000 individuals.
That figure includes contractors and individuals completing 20 years service for a pension, as well as those completing a full term of 35 years.
Large employers, unions and construction associations are aware and support the program, Maloney said.
The Alberta Construction Labor Relations Association is a member of the H2H board of directors.
TransCanada Pipelines has pledged $1 million over five years.
Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association, who helped Maloney lobby for the Canadian program, said his industry will benefit.
“I had a reservist in here an hour ago. He had some carpentry, drywall and painting. I gave him all the information to put him in touch with the program,” said Laird.
Gregory Matte can be contacted at 613-238-2301.
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