Employers who are wondering where to find their next top-quality technician might do well to consider men and women who are used to wearing a uniform - members of the U.S. military.

The U.S. Navy provides training in about 20 various categories. The particular area that provides HVACR training in this branch of the service is the Construction and Building category. The News contacted Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Blasko, currently assigned to the Cleveland-area recruiting station, who recalled his 16 years with the U.S. Navy.

"It's hard to recall all the specific training that I received over the years. Luckily, every enlisted person has a ‘smart transcript' that shows everything a person has done during their stay in the Navy. This is a very helpful tool when a person leaves for the civilian world," Blasko said.

At first glance, it might seem that the Navy and other military branches would provide ideal candidates with highly defined technical skills that would be appropriate for the HVAC trade. To an extent, this is correct.

However, a person departing the U.S. Navy could be several years removed from the last training that was specific to HVAC. Blasko noted that it is uncommon for an enlisted person to specialize in only one particular trade. "It's more likely for an enlisted person to receive job training that is very well-rounded in several trades.

"The training depends on the specific school one is attending. It may be a week long or four months long, on things such as basic service for an air conditioning unit to a complete tear down and reassembly of a system."

Enlisted personnel are sometimes assigned special training for a specific task upon a ship whenever a void may need to be filled.

This carrier ship is home and workplace to a large number of people trained in servicing and rebuilding mechanical systems.

Making The TAP Navy Connection

What happens when a person retires from the Navy, or finishes a typical four-to six-year hitch? Each enlisted person participates in a Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which is a three-day training program designed to help prepare service personnel for what civilian life is going to be like. In the civilian world, this could be likened to an outplacement program. However, the TAP doesn't provide exiting personnel with any employment leads.

When asked what it would take for TAP to be able to facilitate meetings between prospective employers and Navy personnel, Blasko said, "If everyone who was trained in HVAC were in one community, it would be much easier to establish a localized placement-assistance program. However, everyone is spread all across the world."

Blasko also said it would be nice if the TAP programs brought together Navy personnel getting ready to exit the service, who were all of one skills category. This TAP group could be interviewed by a variety of HVAC-related business contractors, distributors, or manufacturers, similar to the way that college campuses are a hub for recruiting around graduation time.

Currently, some temporary agencies may come to a military recruiting agency asking for specific work skills to fill particular jobs. Otherwise, there is little, if any, direct recruiting on naval bases.

York Navy Systems 800-ton A/C plant for use on Nimitz class aircraft carriers.

The Army Connection

The U.S. Army is the nation's largest schoolhouse. Each year, more than $3.6 billion are spent to provide training to more than 374,000 members of the force. Training is conducted in a wide range of skills, so when talented and experienced veterans leave the military each year, their honorable discharge is proof of their trainability, dependability, and willingness to work as a member of a team.

The Army offers the online Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP), which was designed to help its service members succeed in their transition from federal service to the private workforce. ACAP was also designed to help employers find the skilled and experienced employees they need to support their economic growth. This provides access to thousands of highly skilled and motivated soldiers making a transition to civilian life.

HVAC contractors can access this Web site for free: www.acap.army.mil/employer/employer.cfm. At the site, your firm can create and manage ACAP job listings at no cost. For example, a click on the Fort Leonard Wood ACAP Center (Missouri) reveals 13 postings for jobs ranging from aircraft services specialist to professional engineer. An HVAC company could post to any or all of the Army's more than 50 worldwide ACAP Centers.

Helmets To Hardhats

The Building and Construction Trade Department members and employers have created an employment program for military members called Helmets To Hardhats. It is a national program that was started in 2002, connecting National Guard, Reserve, and transitioning active-duty military members with quality career training and employment opportunities within the construction industry. The program is administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif. Direction for management of the center comes from a board of trustees comprised of equal numbers of employer and labor trustees.

The program has experienced tremendous success in a short amount of time through the proactive support and registrations of the building and construction trade unions. More than 45,000 careers are listed on the organization's Web site, which is www.helmetstohardhats.com. To date, 21,161 candidates have been referred into new careers.

One of the major milestones achieved in 2004 with the program was the beginning of statewide direct entry signings. With the help of the Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, all of their affiliates, and the governor, the organization was able to create a direct entry process to help candidates get accepted in-to all of the Indiana trades. Ohio soon followed with a similar direct entry-signing event.

This year Connecticut, West Virginia, Washington, and Rhode Island have also had direct entry signing events. They provide a common agreement for union affiliates to support all Helmets to Hardhats military candidates within each state and provide credit for military training and experience.

With the implementation of a statewide direct entry program, Helmets to Hardhats candidates are able to get into quality construction careers soon after applying for them through Helmets to Hardhats. Once the state proclamation is signed, it allows all local unions (at their discretion) to accept current and former military candidates and provide credit for military training and experience.

For more information on this program, call 866-741-6210 or e-mail sarah@helmetstohardhats.org.

Publication date: 07/25/2005