If one of the owners of a major scaffolding company in Toronto had an opportunity to hire a large crew of ex-military personnel transitioning into careers as carpenters, he’d do it on a moment’s notice.
They are that good, says Kris Rodobolski, a co-founder and chief operating officer of Summit Access Solutions Inc., which has built a reputation for its scaffolding work on major projects in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa and other regions of the province.
Over the last couple of years, the contractor has employed four to six ex-military personnel at any given time as carpenter apprentices in scaffolding through the Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program.
At first, Rodobolski had no idea if the crews from H2H would work out on the job.
“We very quickly learned that these are some of the best employees we’ll ever have.”
He says even “green apprentices” have proven to be assets right away.
“They are hardworking, very respectful” of their peers and managers and “they are very prompt – as small an item as that seems.”
Rodobolski believes their military experience has been character building, helping those men and women develop good working habits and interpersonal skills needed as new apprentices.
Summit, which builds all types of scaffolding, including large platform access units and employs 80 to 100 workers, is one of a growing number of builders that see the merits of hiring H2H workers.
Mike Humphries is not surprised. Work ethic, discipline and a willingness to learn are engrained in members of the Canadian Armed Forces, says Humphries, the H2H veteran liaison representative on behalf of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.
Those traits are often “above and beyond the average person” starting an apprenticeship, he says.
Summit recently lost some of its military personnel who returned to their reserve units for upgrade training in Toronto over the summer.
“To give up a good-paying job for two months to do extra (military) training for a lot less pay” illustrates how dedicated they are to standing up for their country, says Humphries, who recruits and mentors H2H participants.
He expects there will be an influx of ex-military people at trade union halls in the next few weeks during posting season, a release period for many members of the Armed Forces.
Dave Darling, co-founder and chief executive officer of Summit, says the contractor is starting a big job at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in August.
“When they come back at the end of summer we’ll put them on it. We put them on all of our big projects.”
Normand Trepanier, deputy director of H2H, says about 25 to 30 veterans are referred to trades across Canada monthly, with the majority sent to the building trades in Ontario.
Since 2012, the organization has referred more than 2,500 personnel to trades.
While union halls are “doing a good job” placing vets in new careers, H2H hopes to hike the enrolment numbers to help meet the growing demand, Trepanier says.
Recently, Summit partnered with Superior Crane and raised $18,000 for H2H through an annual golf tournament which the two contractors host.
The cash will be used to help transition veterans, reservists and even cadets into careers in the building trades, Trepanier says.
“This money is great for us.”