Lt. Col. Wenceslao Angulo, Communications Director, U.S. Army Soldier for Life
Ironworkers have good common sense. They are timely, no matter how early their day starts. They are unafraid, especially when it comes to working up high. In states like New York, some ironworkers are assigned to projects 1,000 feet off the ground.
“Every person in the military already has the soft skills to be an ironworker,” said James “Jimmy” Yuhase, Jr., Assistant Apprenticeship Director at Ironworkers Local #5. “Being an ironworker demands that you give 100 percent, and service members already have that drilled into their body,” he said.
A Marine Corps Veteran, Yuhase knows this first-hand. Over the course of five years, Yuhase worked on fighter jets and deployed multiple times with the “Great American Bulldogs” Harrier Squadron. At the end of his term, with a small child at home and another on the way, Yuhase decided to find a career that would let him spend more time with his growing family. As he was in the process of transitioning, a Sgt. Maj. mentioned Helmets to Hardhats. Yuhase, who had worked in construction prior to joining the military, contact them immediately.
“Helmets to Hardhats makes you feel comfortable, like you have a home when you get out, because that can be pretty scary,” said Yuhase.
To ease this anxiety that many transitioning service members feel, the U.S. Army Soldier for Life program works with organizations like Helmets to Hardhats to prepare Soldiers, Veterans and their Families to serve strong throughout their military career as well as through and after transition from service. Meaningful employment often leads to increased access to education and health resources, and is integral to remaining strong after transition.
Yuhase knew he wanted to return to construction, and because of his military occupational specialty and background in the industry, he entered a three-year apprenticeship through the ironworkers. As soon as he finished the program he became a foreman in the field and a teacher, guiding the next class of ironworkers. In 2011, he began working as an apprenticeship coordinator, recruiting applicants and making sure everything from the equipment to the instructors are up-to-date and prepared with the newest technology available.
“Register with Helmets to Hardhats as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute—you can register while you’re still active,” Yuhase advises fellow Veterans who are interested in the building and construction fields. The apprenticeships vary in specialization and length, and offer unique opportunities for Veterans to leverage the skills they learn in the military based on the individual’s skills and interests.
Now the Apprenticeship Director, Yuhase plans to continue working with Helmets to Hardhats, helping fellow Veterans find a new home in construction.