To the Editor:
It takes a special kind of courage to join our nation’s military, especially in these volatile times abroad.
As we welcome our veterans home, the least we can do for them is to provide employment opportunity when they return home. We have a moral obligation to hire our Jersey heroes, but it also is a practical decision. No one has been more committed to getting New Jersey’s veterans back to work that than Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
That is why the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has strongly supported the Helmets to Hardhats program, which enables men and women in the National Guard, people in the reserve and retired or transitioning military members to connect to quality career and training opportunities in the construction industry.
Earlier this month at the New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council’s (NJBCTC) annual convention I announced Labor will fund the program for another year. Our $190,000 grant marks the second consecutive year the Christie Administration has supported the effort.
The NJBCTC, which is a partnership of 13 county building trades councils with links to more than 100 local unions and over 150,000 rank and file members, educates and trains veterans through Helmets to Hardhats for placement on their jobsites.
Just 10 months ago, I joined Gov. Christie and NJBCTC President Bill Mullen at a construction site in New Brunswick, where we announced a $195,000 initial investment in Helmets to Hardhats. While NJBCTC initially agreed to serve 24 veterans through the program, it doubled that by successfully placing 47 veterans into apprenticeships.
Connecting returning military personnel to jobs requires direct links to the veteran community and knowledge of their unique skills, and the NJBCTC understands that. While national surveys indicate employers have a very strong interest in bringing our veterans aboard, those same businesses also say they do not know how to reach veterans and are unsure how to adapt their skills to the civilian market.
That is where my department, along with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA) and the federal Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), are helpful. Each of our agencies has access to an array of programs designed to help them connect to veterans for potential employment.
Last spring we brought employers—large and small—to a symposium at Prudential Financial in Newark to highlight the many resources available, including the-job training, tax credits and customized and literacy training grants offered by my Department. We have nearly 50 veteran representatives ready to assist former military personnel connect with jobs and any other services they need each day.
It’s a service we are committed to maintaining. Helmets to Hardhats is a program that our veterans deserve and one that the Christie Administration is committed to maintain.
Harold J. Wirths
Commissioner, Department of Labor and Workforce Development