August 12, 2021

“EVERYTHING IN THE ARMY IS GIVEN TO YOU,” says Canadian Armed Forces veteran Logan Minty. “We go to bed at the same time every night. We eat at these times. We work out at these times. When you get out – you’re on your own. It’s a big adjustment not having everything regimented so it can be very hard.”

Private Minty served for three years with the Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Second Battalion, Bravo Company. Today, he is working with the BC Regional Council of Carpenters (BCRCC) Vancouver Local 1907. He was set up with an apprenticeship by Helmets to Hardhats, a non-profit organization that assists veterans transitioning out of the military into a second career in the construction industry.

Founded by Joe Maloney in 2012, Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada works with the building trades unions and unionized employers across the country to place veterans, active reservists, senior cadets, their spouses and dependent children (ages 18 to 25) as apprentices or direct hires in the construction industry.

“We try to serve the entire military family,” says Maloney, who also spearheaded the U.S. H2H program in 2002 during his service as secretary-treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades,  American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “I’ve always admired the men and women that serve our country. I think it’s time we put veterans first and give them more options.”

Every year, more than 5,000 men and women are released from the Canadian Armed Forces. According to a 2011 joint survey by the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada, 25 per cent of the veterans released from service between 1998 and 2007 reported a difficult adjustment to civilian life.

“When you’re in the military, everything is taken care of for you, food, lodging,” says Maloney. “When you transition out and you leave that base, if you don’t have a connection, you can easily fall through the cracks. There’s a high percentage of veterans in the homeless community.”

Since its inception, H2H has placed 146 veterans with building trades unions and unionized employers in B.C. alone.

A member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers since 1974, Maloney sees the transition from military to the trades as a natural fit.

“The construction industry has the best apprenticeship programs, the best pay and the best benefits,” says Maloney. “I want to make vets aware of this and give them access to it because they fit well into the industry. They can get up in the morning, put their boots on and get to work. They take orders and they’re great leaders.”

Maloney emphasizes that H2H does not simply offer veterans jobs; they assist veterans in finding a well-paying and rewarding second career in the trades. Removing as many barriers as possible to access, the program is free to veteran members.

BCRCC’s Minty first learned about H2H from his master-corporal while still serving under his military contract. After he left the military, Minty returned to his home province of Ontario, but was unsure what he wanted to do. Remembering his master-corporal’s suggestion, Minty looked up H2H and created an online account with the non-profit. He soon got a phone call from retired Master-General Paul Bury, H2H’s director of placement.

“He was extremely friendly, really cool,” says Minty. “We went over everything. What I liked and they made the union connection for me. They got me an in.”

Minty packed up his car and drove west to White Rock, B.C. and joined BCRCC Local 1907.

“I enjoy being a builder, it’s fun,” says Minty. “I have army buddies who are in right now and they don’t know what to do if they get out. But there’s hope. You can make more money and have career.”

By Tatiana Tomljanovic