With the unemployment rate among military veterans 18 to 24 years of age topping 20 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, finding jobs for returning service members is—or should be—a national priority. As a veteran of the U.S. Army and the principal of a veteran-owned small business—the associates in our firm represent the Army, Air Force, and Marines—I’m proud of the efforts being made by the green-building and HVACR industries in this respect.
Shortly after earning my first LEED AP credential in 2007, I joined the South Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). One of its most significant initiatives was to become the founding chapter of the Green Veterans program. Green Veterans is dedicated to helping U.S. military veterans learn about sustainable building and green living while at the same time easing their transition to civilian life. By empowering veterans to be volunteer leaders in their communities, the program helps to nurture opportunities for continuing education, networking, employment, corporate engagement, and green entrepreneurship. Green Veterans is rapidly gaining traction through adoption by other USGBC chapters, recognition by USGBC co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Rick Fedrizzi, and partnerships with other organizations. One of those partnerships is with the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) in St. Lucie County, Florida. SELF’s Veterans Helping Veterans is a pilot program that, with the support of various municipalities, will enable veterans to perform energy-efficiency home-improvement work for other veterans.
One of the ways the HVACR industry is helping returning veterans is through an ambitious training program offered by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA). UA, which represents approximately 370,000 workers, offers high-quality training and jobs in trades such as plumbing, pipefitting, HVACR service, and welding to active-duty military personnel preparing to leave the service. The Veterans in Piping (VIP) program, meanwhile, provides 18 weeks of intensive specialized training in welding and HVACR before connecting graduates to established apprenticeship training programs that give the chance to earn college credit to apply to a degree program. UA places 100 percent of the veterans who complete the program, which is provided at no cost to veterans or taxpayers, thanks to the generosity of UA members and contractors.
The military also is doing its part. In February, the first class of Marine trainees at Camp Pendleton, Calif., graduated from a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) pilot program aimed at preparing veterans for careers as solar-photovoltaic-system installers, sales representatives, and inspectors. Camp Pendleton, along with Fort Carson, Colo., and Naval Station Norfolk, Va., are partnering with the DOE’s SunShot Initiative to initially train 200 transitioning military service members for employment in the U.S. solar industry.
Hire a vet, and help make olive drab the new green!