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What Do Veterans Need to Transition Successfully?

A career, a friend, and a home - the 3 pillars of wellness.

Enter the Helmets to Hardhats Canada® (H2H) program which began in Ottawa, Ontario - May 2012.

The H2H Mission:

"To provide Canadian military veterans and serving reservists with opportunities for apprenticeship training and/or rewarding careers, with excellent wages and benefits, in Canada's unionized building, construction and maintenance industries. To provide these same industry stakeholders with talented and highly committed military veterans and serving reservists who possess the skills, qualities, knowledge and experience to make an outstanding, long-term workforce contribution."

For the last 5 1/2 years a team of dedicated veterans has been promoting and managing the H2H program. They have recorded 650+ successes to date. Veterans have become apprentices and or have been hired by partner employers.

Currently 14 unions support the H2H program with 10,000 employers across Canada. The unions represent the following industries: construction, maintenance, automotive, and fabrication.

Initially, there were more applicants than apprentice positions. Now, there are more opportunities than applicants. H2H has expanded the program to include military spouses and dependent children, (18 - 25 years old).

At the initial interview stage the H2H applicant is asked 3 questions:

  • What trade are you interested in?

  • When can you begin?

  • Where in Canada do you want to live?

The responses to these questions will determine the candidates next steps. The H2H team provides relevant labour market information to the candidate.

I asked, is there a labour shortage in Canada? BGen (Ret'd) Gregory C.P. Matte, H2H Executive Director responded" there is not a shortage of workers. There is a shortage of skilled qualified workers in Canada." He envisions a growing shortage of skilled Trades workers within the next couple decades. He also predicts shortages may mean qualified tradespeople will be paid more than medical professionals in the future.

Veterans are a good fit for the skilled trades. They possess a strong work ethic, teamwork and safety skills. They are used to following procedures and performing project work. Learning on the job and being promoted is part of the military culture. The age spectrum of H2H applicants is 20 - 60 years old, with the average age being 37.

The union structure creates a fraternity atmosphere, inclusive and respectful of its' members. Unions provide benefits - medical, dental, mental health, pensions, and support for families. The union culture mirrors many of the military principles.

H2H program provides a career opportunity and acceptance into a brotherhood/sisterhood. This enables the veteran to afford a home and take care of their family with dignity. The 3 pillars of wellness are fulfilled.

This is what Andrew W. had to say about H2H:

"After almost 12 years on the gun line, long nights in the coordination centres, and even longer months away from home. My family and I needed a change.

H2H Canada assisted in finding an amazing career as a Steamfitter-Pipefitter with UA Local 488 and I appreciate being a recipient of the St Eloi Scholarship award. Their continued support throughout my apprenticeship lets my employer know that selecting a former member of the Canadian Forces to get the job done benefits them with a well trained tradesperson, and contributes to their overall success on the project. "

To find out more about the H2H program visit

Originally posted Feb. 2018


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