As we pause today to reflect on the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, it is important that we all commit to ensuring they are as successful as possible when returning home. It’s happening all the time here in Texas.
The construction industry has a long history of welcoming veterans into the fold after they’re completed their service. For example, a program we featured at Alvin Community College has an impressive success rate as veterans receive training to get good-paying jobs in the petrochemical industry as pipefitters and welders.
One of those students, Guillermo Marquez, was in the Army for eight years and previously worked as a painter. “The Workforce Commission was promoting the classes and I decided to take it because I wanted to learn more," he said. "I'm learning pipefitting. It's tougher but I'm willing to do it because that paycheck is going to be pretty good," Marquez said.
As former Build Your Future Executive Director Diane Greene reminded us, “Transitioning into civilian life is a daunting challenge for many service members, and two out three veterans report having a difficult time during this process. In addition, veterans listed the greatest challenge during the phase was finding a civilian job.”
That’s part of why job fairs like the one in Atlanta we covered back in 2012 are so important. Thousands of veterans were on hand for the event where the whole idea was to match them with the kinds of careers they’re either already qualified for or could fairly easily receive training.
“It was a no-brainer as far as the skilled labor shortage that we're seeing here,” said Don Cerlanek with MEMCO Solutions, Inc in Atlanta. “It makes total sense for us to recruit veterans who are interested in a skilled trade.”
But at that time, Cerlanek said he was a little surprised that there weren’t more construction companies at the job fair for veterans organized in part by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Office of Workforce Development. “I don't know where the disconnect is, as far as why more general contractors and subcontractors weren’t there. We had guys come up to our booth and we told them we could put them to work in the next few days. They really liked that.”
Per various estimates, roughly a quarter-million people leave military service every year. Re-entering civilian life can be a challenge. Laurie Cowin wrote in Construction Dive:
Military members undergo training like few other people do. Following rules and procedures, working as a team and placing absolute trust in colleagues can mean the difference between life and death. Tony DeStefano, vice president of human resources at Skanska USA and former captain in the U.S. Army, said military personnel learn to function in very diverse teams, and have ingrained skillsets that can seamlessly transfer to the construction industry and jobsites.
"Particularly, they have a high focus on teamwork and safety, which is critical for success and longevity," he said. "They also have a heightened sense of duty, understanding that the whole is only as strong as its individual parts, and are organized, self-disciplined and are great problem solvers."
On this Veteran’s Day, the Construction Citizen team renews our commitment to seek out and promote programs like Texas Operation Welcome Home as well as companies that help serve those who have served with honor.