Making the jump to the skilled trades

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Wood, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, marshals an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 25, 2022. The flight will support NATO’s enhanced air policing mission; integrate with allies and partners in the Black Sea region in an increased defensive posture along NATO’s border and to reinforce regional security. (Natalie Stanley/Air Force)

For veterans who only know the military and its structure, transitioning into the civilian workforce is a daunting task.

It can be especially challenging for veterans who have the skillsets needed to be a skilled tradesperson in the civilian world, but may not have obtained the accreditation or certification that employers look for when vetting job candidates.

“A lot of times, it’s almost like two ships passing in the night,” said Eric Eversole, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes program, an organization with a goal of helping veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find employment opportunities. “In the military, you have this talented, committed, hard-working force that, quite candidly, often looks quite different than what the civilian workforce is used to recruiting. That can be challenging.”

Eversole, himself a veteran of the Indiana Air National Guard and United States Navy JAG Corps and a current member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, said he tells transitioning service members to plan for their future civilian employment as they would a military mission.

In his eyes, that means having a clear objective and getting a head start well ahead of being discharged.

“First and foremost, you want to define your operation,” he said. “Second, do your intelligence work. What skills do you have? How do those skills translate into the civilian world? What do you want to do? Where do you want to live? Then you have to look around and see what services are available to you. If you want to obtain certification as a skilled tradesperson, before you leave the military, you need to do your pre-work. You should start a year before you plan on leaving the military, meeting with a transition team and taking advantage of the services offered by the military to help you transition.”

Trane Technologies is one of the Top 100 “Best For Vets” employers in the nation. Eric Weiss, technical trainer for Trane Technologies residential HVAC and supply, said there are several options for military members and veterans looking to obtain certification when entering the civilian workforce.

“Some HVAC dealers will hire an untrained tech into an entry position where they will teach them the needed skills and help them acquire the proper certification while on the job,” Weiss said. “A more formal path would be to enroll in a school program—from associates degrees to HVAC-only specialty schools—to learn the skills either before or while working for a company.”

For example, Trane Technologies offers several different education and training programs for employees of its equipment dealers and installers. They include online training for entry-level, advanced and systems installations technicians, as well as a program that blends online education and virtual training for installation technicians.

“Our company is also developing another option through another pilot program—Trade Warriors—that brings HVAC certification opportunities to military personnel before they leave the service,” said Weiss. “That program is in its infancy, and we hope to soon share more about it in the near future.”

Eversole said that in the ever-changing economy, military members looking to enter a skilled trades profession should be able to do so fairly seamlessly, especially if they are willing to plan ahead.

“We are at one of those junctures, from a workforce standpoint, where the opportunities for skilled laborers are abundant. We encourage our military members to start planning for that life while they are still in the military.”



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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.