Canadian Contractor

The Troops Are Among Us

Why veterans, Armed Force members and Reservists are now wearing hardhats

June 4, 2012
By Robert Koci
Robert Koci

Corporal Taylor other Combat Engineers hammer in spikes to make a helicopter landing pad in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

By Heidi Filici

The Helmets to Hardhats program (partnered with Canada’s Building Trade Unions and also run in the United States) helps veterans, Armed Force members and Reservists make a smooth transition from military to civilian life. It provides them with exclusive access to training opportunities and careers within the construction industry. The program allows them to use their unique skills to continue providing for their families and contributing to their community in a whole new way. In the process, they are meeting labour needs in the construction sector and generating employment that fuels economic growth.

There are 85 trades in the Canadian military, 12-15 which are compatible with the building trade.  Makes sense, considering they helped rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and have been hard at work rebuilding the infrastructure in Afghanistan… so what’s a little residential home construction?

“Life in the military prepares you well for a job in the civilian world by hammering home fundamental skills required for all jobs. Skills like attention to detail, punctuality, presentation and endurance to see work finished… the pace and expected performance of you in the military, prepares you well for a job in the civilian workforce where you are often required to work overtime to meet deadlines. The real problem that exists for military members is finding work once you’ve left the military,” says Corporal Keven Taylor, 32 Combat Engineer Regiment.


The Canadian Government is contributing $150,000 through Veteran Affairs Canada’s Community Engagement Partnership Fund to help support the Helmets to Hardhats initiative. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, as well as the province of Alberta, has agreed to match the federal government’s contribution (side note: does anyone else see the irony in McGuinty supporting this cause, while planning to tax all tradespeople $84 million? See McGuilty article).

The program is predicted to cost between $750,000 -$1 million. The executive director of Helmets to Hardhats, Gregory Matte, expects it to be in full swing by January 2013.



Heidi Filici is a freelance writer based in Toronto and a part-time contributor to Canadian Contractor.