a year ago, Kristina Reinholtz became tired of drifting from
job to job. The 22-year-old enlisted in the Army in 2000,
hoping to be trained for a career as a heavy wheel mechanic.
But while going through basic training at Fort Sill, Okla.,
she "blew out" her knee. In January 2001, Private
Reinholtz received an honorable disabled discharge.
"I was just clueless about what I was going to do,"
Reinholtz says. Back home in Salt Lake City, she "did
some day care, some data entry jobs, some delivery jobs."
In early 2004, while using the Internet to job search, she
found a Website that caught her attentionwww.helmetstohardhats.org.
The program promised military veterans careers in construction.
Now a carpenters union apprentice in Las Vegas, she
says it changed her life.
Helmets to Hardhats, or H2H as
the recruitment program is known, allows both prospective
workers and employers to register online. It was founded in
2003 by the 15 construction labor unions of the AFL-CIOs
Building and Construction Trades Dept. and nine employer associations.
The construction industrys ongoing struggle to recruit
a new generation of skilled craft workers was the central
force behind H2H. Shortages are expected to surge over the
next 10 years as older workers retire and younger job seekers
flock to desk jobs. Over the years, unions have tried different
recruitment techniques but with little success. Ironically,
it was a Canadian labor leader who came up with the idea of
tapping newly discharged veterans for careers in construction,
enlisting them in apprenticeship programs as they separated
from the military.
Joe Maloney is the unlikely champion
of Helmets to Hardhats. A Toronto-born boilermaker, he has
never served in the military. But as BCTDs secretary-treasurer,
he is regarded as the kind of leader who thinks outside the
H2H couldnt have blossomed
at a better time. National unemployment figures average just
over 5%, but the unemployment rate for veterans is closer
to 15%. With thousands of service members returning from Afghanistan
and Iraq without jobs or careers, H2H is helping to fill that
void. In just over two years, more than 17,000 veterans have
been matched with apprentice opportunities.
For his leadership role in developing
Helmets to Hardhats, ENRs editors have selected Joe
Maloney as the 40th recipient of the magazines Award
Helmets to Hardhats might never
have happened without Maloney. In early 2001, he substituted
as a last-minute speaker at a workshop where consultants discussed
ideas to help veterans move back into civilian life. He was
surprised to learn that many vets were having trouble finding
jobs with career paths.
Maloney seized the opportunity
to tout the building trade unions apprentice programs,
career opportunities, wages and benefits. A spark was struck.
The prospect of tapping the pool of vets seemed to be a perfect
fit with industry needs. The vets generally were the right
age, disciplined, drug free and used to following orders.
As a group, they also are highly computer literate.
Forward. Hedman (left) and Caulfield (right) have
plans for expanding Helmets to Hardhats to management.
(Photos by Michael Goodman for ENR)
The idea caught fire when Maloney
brainstormed with two other participants he met at the workshopretired
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Matthew P. Caulfield, then working
as a work force consultant, and Kenneth E. Hedman, then labor
relations manager at Bechtel Construction Co. and chairman
of the North American Contractors Association.
Helmets to Hardhats came to life
over the next several months as Maloney brought the 15 building
trade unions to the table while Caulfield brought his military
contacts and headhunting skills. Hedman was key in lining
up employment opportunities within the contractor community.
The Web-based program is administered by the Carlsbad, Calif.-based
Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment.
The center is a non-profit trust directed by a joint labor-management
committee. Hedman and BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan are
co-chairs and Caulfield is executive director.
To connect with potential jobseekers, unions and contractors
register their apprenticeship programs or job opportunities
on the H2H employers site. Because it receives federal
funds administered by the U.S. Armyabout $6 million
in fiscal 2005Helmets to Hardhats is not limited to
union-only programs. To list career opportunities, employers
that are not members of approved employer associations must
meet specific criteria, including proof that their apprenticeship
program is federally approved. They also must show a record
of providing health and workers compensation insurance.
Candidates register on a separate
H2H site, filling out an extensive questionnaire detailing
their military and work experience. After an electronic match
is made, a representative from a specific union or employer
contacts the candidate to see if the match has a future. "Were
giving the contractors good quality people," says Douglas
J. McCarron, carpenters union president.
Bill Duke, national apprenticeship
coordinator for the laborers union, admits that he was
skeptical about Helmets to Hardhats when he first heard about
it. The union previously had little success in recruiting
apprentices from the ranks of the military. "We didnt
have the access or the way to communicate the need,"
says Duke, who also is assistant director of the Laborers/AGC
Education and Training Fund, Pomfret, Conn.
"But Joe was just like a bull
dog," claims Duke. He saw the need for the program and
understood that it was good for the unions and for the military.
"He just stayed with it hand-in-hand with Gen. Caulfield,"
adds Duke. "Without those two, it would not have happened."
Caulfield runs the day-to-day operations, but he says that
Maloney is "usually one step ahead."
Maloney is considered H2Hs
driving force inside the building trades. "He put it
on the map," says plumbers union President William
P. Hite. Maloneys enthusiasm for the program and his
energetic personality are key factors. "When I want something
done, I give it to Joe," says BCTDs Sullivan. Adds
Hedman, "Nothing is too tough for Joe. He will take on
any issue and get it out the door."
Painters union President
James A. Williams, a Vietnam vet, says that knowing the type
of discipline soldiers get in the military makes them perfect
apprenticeship candidates. "We hooked our wagon to [H2H],"
Michael Joseph Maloney was born in Toronto, Ontario, on Sept.
11, 1956. The second of Greg and Kathleen Maloneys five
children, he was born into a family of boilermakers. His father,
one uncle and two brothers all have worked in the trade. "Not
much else was mentioned around my house," he notes. So
Maloney never considered any other career outside of "working
on the tools."
The 17-year-old left high school
in 1974 before graduation and followed his father into the
union, signing on as an apprentice in boilermakers Local
128 in Toronto. "It was the best job I ever had,"
he recalls. Earning $4.79/hour at the time, "I thought
Id died and went to heaven," he says. Much of his
enjoyment stemmed from the physical activity, mostly building
or repairing powerplants, steel mills, oil refineries or pulp
and paper mills. Maloney liked climbing on the steel and the
camaraderie among the workers. But the work also is dangerous.
Maloney was trained as a fitter-rigger,
someone who fits together pieces of steel weighing anywhere
from 2 tons to 200 tons for welding. His scariest moment came
as a journeyman while working on a storage tank facility in
eastern Toronto. Maloney remembers that he was unhooking a
steel beam from a crane when the load shifted. He slipped
and fell face down, "bear-hugging the beam" while
60 ft above ground.
"Boilermakers are known as
a rough group of guys," says boilermakers union
President Newton B. Jones. "Theres a reason that
a drink is named after them." To any bartender, a boilermaker
is a shot of whiskey dropped glass and all into a mug of beer
and then chugged. It has been described as a "strong
drink that gets a party off to a good start." Both definitions
As a youth, Maloney earned a reputation
as a "bit of a rascal," but he quickly showed leadership
potential. Through his apprenticeship program, he earned his
high school equivalency. "Joe took some college classes
to better himself," remembers apprentice classmate Gordon
Craig. "Hes an achiever," says Craig, an instructor
at Local 128.
Maloney also was quick to fall
in love. As a new apprentice, he made friends easily on the
job. One night, young Maloney and his dad gave another boilermaker
a ride home after work. He invited them inside for a beer
and Maloney was smitten by the boilermakers daughter,
Jeanette. They will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary
Maloney was intrigued with the
unions business. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Canadian
localsalso known as lodgesoperate on an autonomous
basis across each province. He began attending lodge meetings
and soon was wondering if he and his friends could make things
better for the approximately 2,200 boilermakers throughout
Ontario who then were members of Local 128.
Shortly after finishing his apprenticeship,
Maloney ran for the remaining term of a vacant trustee post.
After winning, he planned social gatherings, Christmas...