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Operating Engineers applaud Legislature for ‘Helmets to Hardhats’ initiative


(LANSING) – Operating Engineers 324 applauded the Michigan Legislature for funding an initiative that will help connect Michigan veterans with quality jobs in construction trades.


The Legislature allocated $200,000 in the Workforce Development budget to fund a national program called “Helmets to Hardhats.” The funds will be used to recruit and assist military veterans in transition to apprenticeship jobs in Michigan. As a result of the set-aside, Michigan will become the third state, after New York and Minnesota, to have its own state director to coordinate and administer the Helmets to Hardhats program.



“As we look to fill the growing demand for highly skilled construction workers, veterans have the experience and determination that is necessary to succeed in the trades,”

– Doug Stockwell, business manager for Operating Engineers 324.


“The Helmets to Hardhats program here in Michigan is an example of what is possible when we put supporting our nation’s veterans ahead of partisanship,” said Doug Stockwell. “I want to thank the Legislature for supporting this important and innovative program.”


Helmets to Hardhats is a national non profit that connects veterans in all branches of service – National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty – to opportunities for skilled training and careers in the construction industry. The innovative program takes advantage of G.I. Bill benefits that cover the costs of moving back to their home state or relocating to Michigan to pursue a job opportunity.


“Making sure every Michigander who wants a job can find one is a top priority for me, and as an Army veteran myself, I know this is no truer than when it comes to helping our veterans.” said Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland). “This program will not only help our state’s returning veterans, but bolster recent improvements to Michigan law to count military experience toward licensure and even bring in a new generation of highly-skilled and dedicated trades men and women who will call Michigan home.”


“Our veterans protect us and keep us safe every day,” said Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), whose leadership on veterans issues was instrumental in getting the Helmets to Hardhats program started in Michigan. “I am proud to help ensure the men and women who serve our country have opportunities back home to use their expertise, skills and training to find good-paying jobs and opportunities. Jobs for our veterans is good news for Michigan.”

Operating engineers are the highly skilled workers who run the cranes, excavators and other heavy machinery needed to build Michigan’s roads and bridges. Many of the candidates referred through Helmets to Hardhats possess special skills, experience and discipline that are difficult to find in the regular workforce.


“Operating Engineers keep Michigan running, from building and repairing roads to operating the stationary boilers that keep our kids warm and safe in school,” said Lee Graham, director of labor management for Operating Engineers 324. “Many veterans have prior experience with heavy equipment, construction tools and other equipment, giving them a solid foundation for the skilled trades. Through the Helmets to Hardhats program we look forward to putting more of our nation’s veterans to work in important careers that make an impact every single day.”


The demand for skilled tradespeople is the highest in decades in Michigan as road rebuilding and other infrastructure projects, like the new bridge to Canada, get underway.


“States like Michigan that have a dedicated state coordinator see the number of veterans in the skilled trades triple and even quadruple,” said Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats. “For many of the 150,000 to 225,000 men and women discharged from military service every year, the building and construction trades represent a huge opportunity to build on their skill sets and find good-paying careers back at home.”


Helmets to Hardhats was founded in 2003 and operates nationwide to connect honorably discharged veterans, both enlisted personnel and officers, with high-quality, engaging careers in the building trades. Helmets to Hardhats is administered through the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment (CMRAVE). Helmets to Hardhats is not a placement program, but with mentoring and counseling they help make the connection between career providers and potential candidates. Each year, Helmets to Hardhats receives 14,000 to 30,000 resumes and registrations from military service members’ who have an interest in a career in the construction trades.