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San Francisco Building Trades Unions ‘Invite’ Active Duty Service Members & Vets ‘To Join The Apprenticeship Mix’ Because These ‘Skilled & Hard-Working Team Players Are A Natural Fit For Union Work’

Published Thursday, January 6, 2022
by Jessica Zimmer/The San Francisco Building Trades
San Francisco Building Trades Unions ‘Invite’ Active Duty Service Members & Vets ‘To Join The Apprenticeship Mix’ Because These ‘Skilled & Hard-Working Team Players Are A Natural Fit For Union Work’

(SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA) - Apprentices and Veterans are highly valued in San Francisco’s Building Trades Locals and some Members fall into both categories.

Two Building Trades Unions offer particularly robust programs for Apprentices and, specifically, for Veteran-Apprentices and active-duty U.S. Military Service Member-Apprentices.

Including Veterans and Service Members in the Apprenticeship mix has yielded positive results.

Danny Campbell, Business Agent for the Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Union - also known as Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 - said his Local offers eight different Apprenticeship Training Programs.

Local 104 was one of the first Unions to partner with Helmets to Hardhats, a national non-profit program that matches Veterans and Active Duty Service Members with positions in the construction industry.

“Veterans often come to Local 104 through the SMART Heroes Program, a seven-week sheet metal and HVAC industry course,” said Campbell, who explained the course, which is equivalent to the first year of an Apprenticeship, helps Service Members transition into the civilian workforce while also giving them a jump on training.

“They complete this program before their discharge,” Campbell said. “SMART Heroes lets a participant enter our five-year Apprenticeship Program as a second-year Apprentice.”

Campbell said Local 104 currently has 50 Veterans in their Apprenticeship Programs: “Contractors have good things to say about Veterans, including that they understand teamwork and have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts.”

Allelea Cabiles, a third-year Apprentice with Local 104 who is not a Veteran, said the Apprenticeship Program is valuable for all participants: “In the initial stages of the pandemic, I went to class on Zoom.  Now we’re back in-person, following (COVID-19) protocols.  I found whether we’re on-line or in the same room, everyone is there to help each other.”

Cabiles said the Apprenticeship Program builds camaraderie through the bonding that takes places among all participants: “My advice for a first-year Apprentice is to be willing to learn every single day.  When you show up on time or early and do the job proudly, you’ll come a long way.”

Cabiles said that she’s glad her children, an eight-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter, are witnessing her hard work: “I get up every day around (3:30) a.m.  They know I do it for them.  I think my children are inspired by the fact that I am never late.”

Dylan Boldt, Business Agent for Sprinkler Fitters Local 483, said understanding how to support Veterans through Apprenticeship Programs takes dedication: “I’m a Veteran - a graduate of Helmets to Hardhats - and Chair for the California State Pipe Trade Veterans Association.  The goal of the association is to mentor Veterans who come back.  We partner more veterans just exiting military service with Veterans who were discharged years ago.  That way, younger Vets can ask questions.”

The association and Local 483 also ensure Veterans can access GI Benefits and find appropriate medical care through their VA benefits.

They teach Members how to help out in more subtle ways, too.

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