The 2017 ABC National Craft Championships was a two-day competition for craft profession trainees and apprentices held in Fort Lauderdale in March. This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring excerpts from conversations I had with some of the industry leaders I met at the event.
I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of people who are involved in an exciting collaboration between NCCER (the National Center for Construction Education & Research) and military and industry experts on behalf of those who are veterans of or are currently transitioning from active service in the United States Military. The goal of this joint effort is to help those who have been trained in skilled trades through the military to translate those skills into the NCCER certifications recognized by construction companies across the industry. This benefits both the prospective employees because they are directed into exactly which trainings they need to pursue as next-steps toward NCCER certifications, and also benefits industry employers who are looking for workers who are skilled in trades such as pipefitting, electrical, and welding.
Heath Culbertson is the Veteran Program Manager at KBR, Inc. as well as one of our Construction Citizen authors. He talked with me about this collaboration which began about a year ago. He said:
“Last year, representatives from the Army met with NCCER leadership to determine how to take military job specialty codes and get active duty or individuals outside of the military who have already separated to match NCCER credit to the skills learned in the military.
“Currently we have ten MOS codes that transfer directly to NCCER credentials. Before they separate or if they have already separated, they can turn in their DD 214, and as long as they are honorably discharged, they get that benefit.”
As the NCC competition continued around us, Culbertson continued to tell me about the meeting with NCCER representatives which had been held the night before. Plans for expanding the credentialing portal were discussed, and Culbertson expressed his excitement with what he described as a “great path forward.”
I asked if they were planning to match more skills learned in the military with credentialing. He described what he called “crosswalking” maps between terms used to describe skills learned in the military and terms used to describe skills used in the construction industry. In addition to the ten Army MOS codes (military occupational specialty codes) which have already been translated and approved by NCCER, they are now working with the Navy and the Air Force to begin “doing those crosswalks” this summer for those military branches. They also plan to add more translated MOS codes for the Army. Culbertson:
“What does that mean for the industry? Right now, I take a veteran and I hire him on to a KBR project – let’s take an electrician for example. We take a military electrician and put him on to a KBR project. He doesn’t have any credentials, civilian-wise, to say ‘here’s what I did in the military, let’s transfer my skills’ – well, now they do. So instead of bringing him in at entry-level, we can bring him in at mid- to upper-level.” Culbertson continued:
“The great thing about NCCER is that you get a Training Prescription. The Training Prescription tells you ‘here’s what it is going to take to get up to a journeyman level.’ Automatically. So we hire them at an upper level – which takes care of their families and provides for their families at a better pay rate – and then we immediately get a training prescription to set them up for training to let them start to continue climbing that [career] ladder. It’s a great thing that we have going on, and it is amazing that last year this was all just an idea – and here we are. I am really looking forward to what next year holds by this time.”
Culbertson described the process used when “crosswalking” those credentialing terms. He said industry experts, military instructors, and representatives from NCCER all sit down together to look at the requirements for each credential. One day in May 2016, for example, such a group sat down “in a room with no windows” where they went line by line through the requirements for each military and NCCER credit. He said, “We did that for eight hours – that is exactly what we did: we sat in a room and we went line by line by line through everything that the Army does for these ten MOS codes, and we just got it knocked out.”
NCCER is currently working with the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. They hope to continue this work with the Marine Corp and with the Coast Guard, but that is not yet being developed.
I also talked with Jennifer Wilkerson, Director of Marketing, Public Relations & Build Your Future (BYF) at NCCER, who is also a listed Construction Citizen author. Wilkerson explained:
“We are super excited about our credentialing portal. We’ve been working on it for quite some time now – wanting to make sure that military receive the credit for the training that they received while they were still in the military. The great thing about this is that companies won’t have to retrain; veterans do not have to try to explain what they already know how to do or what they have done – we actually are taking care of that for them. With our credentialing portal at veterans.byf.org, a transitioning military or a veteran can go in, they can actually find their MOS code, and once they click on that they can go in and read what the credit is that they will get for what they have already done and submit their ‘DD 214’ [United States military certificate of release or discharge from active duty] and other required documentation. Once everything has been validated, it gets sent over to the NCCER registry, and within four weeks, they will receive credentials for what they have already done in the service toward their training.”
Wilkerson said that in addition to the ten Army MOS codes which they already have in use, they are currently working with the Seabees (the United States Navy’s Construction Battalions), and were expecting to have 36 more MOS codes by the end of March 2017. Wilkerson continued: “We are also working with the Air Force, and the other branches of the military will follow right after that because the opportunity here is free to the veterans – there is no charge as always with NCCER credentials. This is just something that we want to do to make sure that [the veterans] get recognized.”
Wilkerson concluded: “I am really excited because the benefit to the employers is that with each of these applications to get credentials there is also a training prescription which means it shows exactly what additional training they need to bring them up to where you may need them in your individual company. So it’s the credentialing portal – it’s veterans.byf.org – get started today!”
You may watch excerpts from these interviews in the 4½-minute video below.
Bonus video: Below is a 3½-minute video produced by NCCER’s Build Your Future program in partnership with industry partners S&B Engineers and Constructors, Zachry, Bechtel, and Turner Industries which highlights some “Hard Hat Heroes” and the credentialing portal. In this video, Trae Dupre, a U.S. Marine veteran now a project manager talks about the benefits of this program for employers:
“When I look at my workforce, I want guys and girls out there who take pride in what they do. When they take pride in what they do, they tend to work safely – and they tend to work productively. You find a lot of that in the military; you find men and women who take pride in what they do – who do quality jobs each and every day.”
Watch for updates on the progress of this exciting developing effort here on Construction Citizen.