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Fort Carson Mountaineer

Trade skills make comeback — Career program helps transitioning troops

By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff

FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Fort Carson Career Skills Program (CSP) recently added a new career track for transitioning Soldiers, one that places Soldiers in careers after seven weeks of training and allows program graduates to gain employment across the country.

“This is a new program to Fort Carson, but it has been proven effective during its pilot program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and is offered at no cost to Soldiers,” said Sherry Jenkins, Fort Carson Transition Services manager.

Called SMART-Heroes, the career track trains transitioning Soldiers for employment in the sheet metal industry. Fort Carson’s first cohort begins in August and will be administered off post, but near Fort Carson.

“The seven-week course is equivalent to a candidate’s first year of apprentice training and it leads directly into an apprenticeship program through the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation Labor Union (SMART).”

SMART-Heroes was established through a partnership between SMART, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association, Helmets to Hardhats and the International Training Institute, and was designed to both help Soldiers transition into superior employment and address a nationwide shortage of workers in the skilled trades.

Candidates can choose to specialize in six broad areas — general sheet metal, architectural, welding, HVAC service, system test and balance and building information modeling.

“Ideally, the industry is looking for people who like to work with their hands,” said Ron Shenberger, SMART-Heroes instructor. “One of the great aspects of this apprenticeship program is that after seven weeks of training, candidates can choose up to 150 locations around the country to begin working and continuing with their second year of apprentice training.”

“As a second-year apprentice, they are also given the high probability of advanced placement and second-year apprentice wages and benefits,” Shenberger said.SMART-Heroes candidates will be in the classroom eight hours each day, four days each week. Once they complete the course and choose a specialty area, they can then choose where they would like to work and live, where they’ll find a local sheet metal union and begin their second year of apprenticeship training.

Jenkins was clear when explaining that SMART-Heroes is not a find-your-own-opportunity job training venture.

“All of our (CSPs) are employment focused,” she said. “So, we make sure that not only do we provide the training to bridge the gap and skills they have to what industry is looking for, but that there is also a link to employment. SMART-Heroes will be connecting course graduates with local unions in the locations they want to live.”

Deciding on a location to live and work is an important aspect for an apprentice training program candidate as some areas of the country have different areas of need.

“We don’t do much refrigeration here in Colorado, for instance,” Shenberger said. “But, Washington (state) does a lot of refrigeration work in their service departments and they also do a lot of architectural work, so our candidates need to decide the type of work they want to do and where they want to live. And, candidates can start the program, learn about the different areas of specialty and decide later on in the process.”

As with any of the Career Skills Programs available at Fort Carson, candidates must meet eligibility requirements: be on active duty and within 180 days of separation as of the course start date (the program is also open to honorably and general discharged veterans and spouses).

A second SMART-Heroes cohort will begin in October. Information sessions are held at the Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP), building 6237, on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Contact SFL-TAP at 526-2096 for more information.

Trade skills make comeback — Career program helps transitioning troops
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