In my last column, I looked at three organizations that give veterans an opportunity to get their foot in the door of a blue-collar job through apprenticeship opportunities. This week, I go a little deeper into the details.

I recently had a question-and-answer discussion with Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats, one of the three groups mentioned in my last column, to give you a better perspective of what this program has to offer.

Q. Tell me a little about Helmets to Hardhats.

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A. The program is a nonprofit created to help transitioning service members find careers in the construction field. Much of that is done through a registered apprenticeship. We've been in business since February 2003 and have since expanded into energy and transportation.

Q. What do you mean by "registered apprenticeship"?

A. These are programs that have been approved by the National Association of State Approving Agencies and listed by the Veterans Affairs Department as being GI Bill-eligible.

Q. What are the eligibility requirements for the apprenticeships?

A. They vary by trade. Most of the trades have a minimum requirement of a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Veterans must possess a valid state-issued ID and birth certificate, and must submit a copy of their DD 214 [military discharge document], where applicable.

Q. How many veterans get accepted into the program?

A. Currently, there are over 140,000 registrants with H2H.

Q. If veterans are not accepted into the program, can they reapply, and what can they do to better their chances?

A. If a service member does not meet the minimum honorable requirement, they are ineligible to participate with the H2H program. They can reapply if they have their discharge upgraded to an honorable status.

Q. Since this is a registered apprenticeship, will a veteran be able to collect GI Bill benefits during the apprenticeship?

A. Yes, all of the veterans we work with are eligible for GI Bill benefits, and since the apprenticeship is paid for, the veteran can receive the GI Bill benefit directly, to use as they see fit.

Q. What can a veteran expect on a typical day of training?

A. A typical workday includes being partnered with licensed journey people who will help them apply the knowledge learned in the classroom on the job site — as well as hard work, attention to detail and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Q. What advice can you give veterans interested in doing an apprenticeship?

A. Apprenticeship programs afford veterans the opportunity to earn a middle-class livable wage while receiving highly skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry. Essentially, veterans earn while they learn.

Q. How can veterans apply?

A. Start by logging onto and creating a profile.

Q. Do you see Helmets to Hardhats expanding to be able to accept more veterans into the program and be given more choices of trades to train in?

A. Veterans now have 15 trades to choose from with over 80 apprenticeable crafts within the construction industry. It's our hope that with construction jobs being on the rise and more service members transitioning into the civilian sector, the program will continue to grow.

Steven Maieli is the founder of, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans' issues at

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