As of this spring, the SMART Heroes program has produced 572 graduates over the course of 67 classes, each of which provides accelerated sheet metal training to recently discharged veterans and active military members in order to help smooth the transition from military life to a rewarding career in the trades. 

Upon discharge, graduates can choose to enter any of the 148 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers apprenticeship programs in the Unites States as second-year sheet metal apprentices. The SMART Heroes Foundation was established to help fund the SMART Heroes program and relies on donors and sponsorships to carry out the program’s mission. Two major contributors have just joined that effort.

DeWalt became a Gold-level sponsor in December 2023, a level reserved for those contributing $25,000 or more. More than 150 Northern California contractors and members of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) contributed $10,000 in January, making Bay Area SMACNA a silver-level sponsor.  

The SMART Heroes program allows participants to learn at an accelerated pace, covering the material for their first year of sheet metal apprenticeship in just seven weeks. It allows graduates to exit the military with the security they have a head-start in a rewarding union career and can immediately access the benefits of a second-year apprentice, including, in many cases, higher pay. Upon graduation, these men and women are provided direct entry into any of SMART’s apprenticeship programs in the United States.

“Contributions from sponsors like DeWalt and Bay Area SMACNA help fund the program, which, in turn, helps produce quality apprentices and journey persons for the industry,” said Steve Hinson, business manager for Local 105 in Southern California and SMART Heroes Foundation board member. “Helping these highly skilled, motivated men and women find a home in unionized sheet metal is a win-win for everyone.”

As new sponsors, DeWalt and Bay Area SMACNA will receive custom fabricated sheet metal plaques and recognition for their part in helping our military men and women succeed in their transition to civilian life.

“We appreciate contributions at all levels,” said Kevin Jones, a contractor at Richards Sheet Metal in Ogden, Utah, and board member for SMART Heroes Foundation. “Corporate sponsors help us offset the cost of operations, and the more support we gather, the more veterans we can reach.”

The SMART Heroes program is a partnership between SMART, SMACNA and the International Training Institute, along with the union and training centers of Local 66 in Western Washington and Local 9 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. SMART Heroes launched in August 2017 at SMART Local 66 in Washington. It was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to active-duty U.S. military men and women who plan to enter the civilian life within the year and recent veterans, thereby assisting in a successful transition into the civilian workforce. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.

Funding for the SMART Heroes program is supported by the SMART Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit, independent organization administered by members of SMART and SMACNA. Donors include companies of all sizes, inside and outside the trade, individuals and organizations.