I grew up in Cadillac, Mich. And no, it’s not near Detroit. My parents still live there, and I like to go back and visit — especially when the high-speed pace of Chicago gets to me.
One of the things I look back on during my high school years is the Veterans Day assembly. Veterans Day is a federal and state holiday, and most students don’t have to go to school. But not so for Cadillac High School students. We were required to not only attend classes, but a special assembly in the gym. (Our school’s stadium is named Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, by the way.) The community was invited to attend, as well as area veterans.
The senior class lined the halls as the freshman, sophomore and juniors made their way to the gym. (I remember trying hard not to lock my knees during my senior year.) It was usually a quiet walk, although you could hear the occassional whisper or snicker.
Once students entered the auditorium and climbed into the bleachers, the principal would get up and say a few words. At some point, a representative of the governer’s office would read off a proclamation, praising the school, the school board and the town for this special observance.
I always thought it was nice that we did this for our community, although I’m not sure I understood the significance then. This was the late 1970s, early 1980s, and I was too young to remember the Vietnam War. A few of my family members served in the military — an uncle, a great uncle, a cousin and Maynard Faloon, my paternal grandfather, whom I never met. He served under General MacArthur in World War II and died in 1951.
Many of my classmates joined the service after high school and some still serve their country.
Today I look back at those assemblies with a different perspective, one that has witnessed three wars in the Middle East. I may not know of anyone who served in those wars but I hear the same stories you do.
And I hear the stories of how plumbing and heating businesses just can’t find the right technicians, even with so many people out of work. Many in the construction industry who were let go during the Great Recession stopped looking for work in the industry and have moved on to something else, and are unwilling to return.
Baby Boomers in the industry are retiring and young people aren’t interested — or are unaware of the career opportunities available in the trades.
Several industry organizations are targeting another group of people that they say are a perfect fit for the plumbing and mechanical trades — military veterans leaving the service. The United Association’s Veterans in Piping program, the Nexstar Legacy Foundation’s Troops to Trades program and the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program were set up to “bridge the gap” between veterans searching for career opportunities that use their unique skill sets to those businesses looking for technicians with the right discipline, attitude and soft skills to be successful at their companies.
“Most people who join the military like to be part of a team, they like to work with their hands and they like to be outdoors,” says Mike Hazard, program manager for the United Association’s Veterans in Piping program. “And they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Veterans make good candidates because they are disciplined, highly motivated and very trainable.”
Renee Cardarelle, executive director of the Nexstar Legacy Foundation, which administers the Troops to Trades program, agrees: “Many businesses I’ve talked to strongly agree there’s this natural fit between veterans’ skills sets and the construction trades. Veterans already have many of the soft skills that home service businesses are looking for — interaction with others, good communications skills and the abilility to present themselves in a professional manner.”
Mr. Rooter President Mary Kennedy Thompson, a former Marine Corps captain and director of veterans affairs for The Dwyer Group, Mr. Rooter’s parent, explains: “Our servicemen and women have gone without many things while risking their lives serving their country. They’ve done the hard stuff and when they come back, they’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives. They’ve got all this leadership training, and they understand discipline and systems.”
In our “Recruiting veterans for the trades” story in this issue you’ll find a more complete explanation of what these programs offer — to returning veterans and to your companies.
Now’s the time to support the veterans in your community and offer them a place in this industry.