Transitioning from the armed services to civilian life can be a rocky road if you don’t have a plan, Spc. Joseph Pineiro explains. After serving six successful years in the U.S. Military, he was honorably discharged and ready to start the next chapter of his life. Thanks to the SMART Heroes apprenticeship program, he had a clear career path waiting for him.

The program provides sheet metal industry training, free of charge, to enlisted men and women of the U.S. Military prior to discharge. Upon completion, graduates can choose from the 148 SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided advanced placement as a second-year apprentice.

“I found out about the program while I was serving,” says Pineiro, who admits he didn’t know what sheet metal was before the program. “After I found out a little bit about it, I really liked it. Yea, they do ductwork and all that that kind of stuff, but I could see where you can build almost anything, and I really like that.”

Some military roles are easier to transition to a career than others. Pineiro is a trained aircraft electrician, and he went into the sheet metal apprenticeship to broaden his skill set.

“They made it super easy to learn it. I didn’t have to worry about not knowing anything,” he says. “They took care of all the little things I had questions about.”

But when you are on the combat side service, programs that help veterans make a smooth transition can be invaluable. 

“One of the biggest things about transitioning out is that you got to figure out what you are going to next,” says Pineiro. “Without programs like these we wouldn’t even know what is really out there.”

Currently, Pineiro is finishing up his apprenticeship at a sheet metal shop in Rochester, New York. Once he hits the five year mark, he hopes to move on to being a foreman and eventually a project manager.

“Or even higher if I can, start a company,” he says. “It’s definitely made it easy to transition from one way of life to another" 

He adds, “But now I got the skills to do a different type of job I enjoy.”