People & Leadership

Veterans and the construction industry: A perfect match

In February 2014, several major construction associations and more than 100 building firms pledged to add 100,000 veterans to the construction workforce over five years. Now, nearly four years later that commitment remains as strong as ever.

“Veterans are a top priority for our member firms,” says Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. “They (former military personnel) are trained to work in team environments, comfortable working outside, reliable, and know how to solve complex problems.”

Those skills make veterans a great match for construction, especially as the industry continues to deal with a qualified worker shortage.

But it’s not about just filling open positions for many construction firms. “In addition to meeting the need to find qualified candidates to hire,” Turmail explains, “our member firms feel a broader obligation to offer high-paying construction career opportunities to the brave men and women who risked their lives to protect our freedom.”

Several groups, including the AGC, are leading the charge to recruit more veterans into the construction ranks. The association has been working with veteran advocates such as Hiring Our Heroes to connect AGC members with veterans through job fairs and job boards, as well as other resources. The AGC also works with organizations like Go Build, I Build America, and Build Your Future to produce and distribute veteran-specific materials that explain the many benefits of working in the construction industry.

Transferrable skills

One of the biggest challenges for both veterans and construction firms is understanding how military job titles and codes line up with typical construction job positions. The National Center for Education and Research (NCCER) is taking the challenge head on by aligning military positions with equivalent construction jobs. The information also includes projected job growth and wage information by position to give veterans a good idea of earning and career growth possibilities.

The AGC also hosts webinars for its members on how to translate veteran’s resumes to understand how their qualifications translate into civilian life.

Here to help

Whether you are a construction firm looking to hire veterans, or a vet interested in the construction industry, look to industry associations such as the AGC for assistance. There are also several key organizations dedicated to helping you:

  • Hiring our Heroes is a nationwide initiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Its goal is to help veterans, transitional service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. The organization holds job fairs across the country and offers a suite of free online career tools, including a jobs portal and virtual mentorship program.
  • Hard Hat Heroes provides NCCER credentials for the relevant training veterans received while in the military. Many construction companies look for NCCR credentials when hiring. The Hard Hat Heroes web page also includes a list of military-friendly construction firms and links to open positions.
  • Helmets to Hardhats is a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired, and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry. Most career opportunities offered by the program are connected to federally-approved apprenticeship training programs. Such training is provided by the trade organizations themselves at no cost to the veteran.

Building a future

On this Veterans Day, as we thank our current and former military service members for the sacrifices they have made, we should also recognize the contributions they have yet to make as civilians. Efforts by the AGC and other industry groups are helping to place many veterans into fulfilling construction careers. It makes perfect sense. After all, who is better qualified to build our country than those who have taken an oath to support and defend it.