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Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Veterans need support that extends beyond Nov. 11

Sean Strickland
Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Veterans need support that extends beyond Nov. 11

Remembrance Day is a day to reflect and honour Canada’s veterans for their service and their sacrifice. But Canadian veterans need support that extends beyond Nov. 11.

Helmets to Hardhats Canada knows that.

The organization supports veterans and their families who are seeking a transition to civilian life and a second career in the skilled trades.

Established in 2012, Helmets to Hardhats Canada has partnerships with construction trade unions and employers from coast to coast. The registered non-profit streamlines pathways to apprenticeship, training and placement opportunities for those who are transitioning, currently serve or have served this country.

At a time when the construction industry, like many other sectors, are facing labour availability challenges, veterans offer an untapped talent pool.

By 2027, approximately 170,000 workers will need to be recruited to meet labour needs and match the growth of the economy to the growth of the workforce.

There is also an opportunity for additional growth and skills requirements as Canada transitions the economy to net-zero and sectors including renewables, hydrogen, nuclear and more expand as we look to diversify Canada’s energy resources.

Each year, approximately 5,000 members leave the service every year. Currently, there are over 600,000 veterans in Canada, with nearly one third under the age of 50, leaving them with years left in their working lives. While the unemployment rate of former military personnel sits close to the national average, at eight per cent, a 2017 report from the Veterans Transition Advisory Council says the quality of jobs and salaries is much lower.

The skills military personnel develop while serving are transferable to the skilled trades – the discipline, technical skills, work ethic – will set them up for success in the construction industry. And the unionized skilled trades offer a lifetime, rewarding career with family-sustaining wages, health and welfare benefits and a pension.

Over the last decade, Helmets to Hardhats Canada has placed more than 2,500 former military personnel, with a 90 per cent retention rate in placements. Employers report veterans have excellent time management, work ethic and leadership, all of which sets them up for success. Veterans made personal sacrifices and put their country first and thus deserve the opportunity to pursue a future in the construction industry.

This Remembrance Day, do more than remember. Take action. For ways you can support Helmets to Hardhats Canada, head to their website. If you or someone you know is a veteran, you can contact Helmets to Hardhats here

Sean Strickland is the executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions. Send Industry Perspectives Op-Ed comments and column ideas to

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