Apprenticeship program aims to assist veterans’ transition into civilian life

For the men and women serving in the U.S. military, the transition to civilian life can be a battle of its own.

A pilot apprenticeship program sponsored by The Associated Builders and Contractors starting next year at Fort Drum in New York, home of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, looks to take away some of that uncertainty by providing valuable construction skills to service members before they make the next step into civilian life.

Michael Bellaman, the president and CEO of the national U.S. trade association, told Fox News on Monday the goal of this program is to take away the “fragmented” feeling some veterans face when trying to look for employment, specifically in the construction industry in this case.

“One of the big problems is that once you are out of the military it’s very, very difficult to find a portal and match up jobs in any kind of scale, aside from just putting that out in the paper,” he said.

In a letter last year from The Chairman’s Office of Reintegration, which leads the effort by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to enable the transition of veterans and their families back into civilian society, officials said around one million service members will hang up their uniforms in the next five years.

Bellaman, who is on President Trump’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, said the program works by getting to veterans before they leave the military, but after they have an established discharge date. Veterans can then build a successful career by combining classroom knowledge, hands-on instruction and paid employment experience.


As part of the program, service members receive free core construction training using an industry-recognized curriculum that’s set up by the National Center for Construction Education & Research.

At Fort Drum, initial plans are for three classes per year, with an average class size of 10 to 15 people. ABC, which is funding the entire program, expects to have at least 200 people complete the program over a 5-year period. Additional classes, however, could be added in the future.

“What better place to recruit from than the military?”

– Michael Bellaman

In the case of Fort Drum, a private company that’s a member of ABC maintains and operates the family housing communities on base. The daily interaction between the management company and military families they are leasing to allows it to promote and help sign up interested service members for careers in construction, according to Bellaman.

After completing the “core competency boot camp,” ABC will also help work with its national network of 70 chapters and over 21,000 member companies to place them.

“The really neat thing about this is you have construction companies on bases, and so to be able to take that and take those kind of companies and marry them up with this opportunity makes a lot of sense,” Bellaman told Fox News.


The program at Fort Drum will be similar to one the organization has used in previous settings to help veterans learn the electrical trade and earn their journeyman’s license as a civilian. William Stewart, a participant of one of those classes, told Construction News in 2015 he thought the classes were invaluable and prepared him to use skills first learned in the military in other settings.

“In the military, I was all about repair, replace, maintain,” he said. “I had no clue that there was a National Electric Code, and there was a reason why certain devices were put in certain places or at what heights or anything like that.”

One of the group’s members hired over 2,000 veterans in both craft professionals and management roles last year, according to Bellaman.

Depending on how the pilot program at Fort Drum goes, Bellaman hopes to scale it up across the country at other military instillations, and wants to see it become a larger national initiative across other industries.

“This is something that our members are passionate about, because we are so appreciative over what our military has done,” he told Fox News. “What better place to recruit from than the military?”

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