Construction Industry

“There’s definitely a need for people in the construction industry,” says Pete Chronis, president of Reece-Campbell, an Ohio construction company. He says many of the contractors his company works with are very worried these days about finding enough skilled workers in the training pipeline. “There is a certain amount of ruggedness required for these jobs. We need to make a bigger effort to glamorize and publicize jobs like these which involve working with your hands.”

For transitioning and unemployed Vets, now is the perfect time to get some training for a construction industry trades job. Jobs like electrician, carpenter, welder, plumber, and heating-a/c installer pay top dollar and – with the housing industry picking up, as it has been – employers are tearing their hair looking for qualified people. You’ll have few job worries plus a solid middle class income for as long as you work.

How do you get the training needed? The answer is via the Veterans Administration GI Bill OJT Program (“On the Job Training” Program).

With this program you’ll be able to work in the field you pick while at the same time completing your classroom study and training on the way to journeyman status. .

Are You Qualified for the OJT Program?

The rule is simply this: if you are qualified for the GI Bill and you start a new job or apprenticeship program (for example, begin an accredited trade school course in carpentry), you can apply for the program. In some cases the VA will even pay retroactively for OJT from the past 12 months. However you’re not permitted to receive GI Bill OJT benefits if you are already receiving GI Bill education benefits (for example, your in a college bachelor’s degree program). I’ll give info on how to get started in the program at the end of this article.

Types of Jobs

There are some great opportunities for Veterans out there if you don’t mind physical exertion (and, in some jobs, getting your hands dirty).

Training/apprenticeship usually ranges from a couple years to five years but once you’ve gotten your training you’re in a secure job that’s in-demand throughout the US and overseas as well. And best of all you can work while you’re getting trained.

Here are a few of the construction trades jobs, with links to the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobmarket forecast for the job (note the BLS Median Pay data is out of date) –

Electrician – BLS predicts a 12% increase in electricians by 2018. Average income is $58,518.

Plumber — In high demand for new construction and ongoing maintenance. Average income is $51,369.

Welder – Welders are needed in office building construction but also in many other industries, such as autos and shipbuilding. Average income is $46,657.

Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic. – Demand for HVAC mechanics and installers will increase by 26 percent by 2018, says BLS. Average income is $54,366,.

Who’s Hiring

Who’s hiring Vets who participate in the VA OJT Program? Here are just a few of many major companies that participate:

Proctor & Gamble Co.

Merck Pharmaceuticals

Pirelli Tire Co.

Cessna Aircraft

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.

Lockheed Martin

Bell South



Pratt & Whitney Engine Co.

Plus of course thousands of local/regional construction companies, and many other types of companies. Not to mention, of course, that you can go into business for yourself..

Getting Started

To get started contact your local VA Regional Office or local State Approving Agency (SAA). Your SAA will help you get started on the process and answer any questions you have about the VA OJT Program.

Also, there’s now a terrific online resource to help you get started at Helmets to Hardhats.


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