Greg Matte, thinks of Canada’s veterans every day, not just on Remembrance Day. That’s because he is a retired Brigadier-General and the National Executive Director of Helmets to Hardhats Canada – an organization that helps retired and transitioning active-duty military members of the Canadian Forces connect to quality career and training opportunities in one of Canada’s most challenging and rewarding industries – the building and construction industry.
“Canada’s veterans have so many qualities that lend themselves perfectly to the construction industry,” says Matte. “They are resilient, resourceful and adapt well to new challenges. They can think on their feet in stressful situations, they know how to work as team players, or better yet, how to lead a team towards completing a task. Veterans are an excellent means of helping Canada meet its needs for skilled workers, and an excellent fit for this industry.”
Since its inception approximately 18 months ago, Helmets to Hardhats Canada has launched its website and online application system, registered over 1600 veterans and developed almost 70 employer partnerships across Canada.
One of those employers, TransCanada, not only partnered with Helmets to Hardhats Canada but also made a $1 million commitment to get the organization started in early 2012.
Sean McMaster, executive vice-president of stakeholder relations and general counsel for TransCanada, himself a military veteran, knows how important it is to help retired and transitioning military members find a second career. He also sees the need for skilled workers in Canada and within TransCanada.
“TransCanada has been working in tandem with Canada’s building trades unions for decades to build energy infrastructure in Canada,” says McMaster. “As one of North America’s largest energy infrastructure companies, our company knows that the trades and our employees are a critical component that energizes our business day to day.”
In terms of attracting retired and transitioning military members, Matte attributes this success to the support provided by the Department of National Defense, including the opportunity to make presentations about the Helmets to Hardhats program at the annual retirement seminars conducted at the many military bases across Canada.
“We’ve had great success in raising awareness of our program, particularly amongst transitioning veterans, but tracking their success has been somewhat more difficult,” explains Matte. “Veterans are so eager to get to work that they often forget to connect with us to let us know who’s hired them.”
In the coming year, Matte plans to find ways to improve on the tracking and reporting system at Helmets to Hardhats, establish a finance committee to ensure sustained funding of the not-for-profit program, and make further inroads in Quebec where the role of trade unions and employers differs and makes it a bit more challenging for the organization to connect veterans to careers in the building and construction industry.
TransCanada’s partnership with Helmets to Hardhats Canada is part of a company strategy that supports innovative programs throughout North America that honour military veterans and assist them in their transition into a civilian career. In addition to its partnership with Helmets to Hardhats Canada, TransCanada also currently partners with the following organizations:
• True Patriot Love – a national fundraising organization that provides financial support to members of the Canadian Forces and veterans to help cover the cost of programs and expenses that are not funded by the Canadian government
• Fisher House Foundation – a national organization supporting America’s military by providing homes for families of military patients receiving medical care.
• Veterans Freedom Park – a veterans park located in Clare County, Michigan, dedicated to remembering, honoring and reflecting on the sacrifices made by all veterans.
• Veterans in Piping (VIP) Program – the program, run by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting in partnership with the U.S. Military, provides returning veterans with 16 weeks of accelerated welding training.