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Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Issue 4 - Evidence - April 4, 2012

OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:03 p.m. to study the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to veterans; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and their families (topic: Transition to civilian life).

Senator Donald Neil Plett (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, I declare the meeting in session. My name is Senator Don Plett, and I am Deputy Chair of the Committee.

The committee is continuing its study of the transition to civilian life of veterans. Today we will hear from representatives of Helmets to Hardhats in Canada and in the United States. They will provide an overview of and will discuss the employment programs, services and support that their organizations offer to veterans during and after their transition to civilian life.

We will hear, via video conference, from Darrell Roberts, Executive Director of the U.S. organization; and from Christopher Smillie, Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Building Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the Canadian organization. I thank you both for appearing and invite you to give your presentations, which will be followed by a question and answer session. We will begin with Mr. Smillie.

Christopher Smillie, Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Building Construction Trades Department (BCTD), Helmets to Hardhats: Good afternoon, chair, members of the committee and guests. Thank you for the invitation to speak today as part of your study. I hope my remarks assist in your endeavours.

We are the Canadian building trades. We represent about 500,000 skilled trades folk in every province and territory through 14 international construction unions. Today, I will keep my remarks fairly short, and hopefully the time that we save can be directed to questions and answers and talking about the nitty-gritty.

The Helmets to Hardhats program in Canada is an important complimentary human resource tool for the building trades and also for our contractor partners in industry. It is an undertaking that is a partnership between industry, government and the Canadian Forces. It is the kind of private-public partnership that makes a difference to the construction industry and, hopefully, to transitioning Canadian Forces members, serving reservists and disabled veterans.

The program in Canada is reflective of the kind of folks we have in our military. Most of the military construction trades line up quite nicely with the civilian trades. If you are steamfitter in the military, your qualifications are very similar to what is required in industry in Canada. In other military occupations, your qualifications in the Canadian Forces may get you part of the way or most of the way to journey person status in the industrial setting.

For example, an engineer who has operated heavy equipment can operate that equipment for us. An armoured corps soldier can operate armoured vehicles and, with just a little help, can transition to heavy equipment with us.

The navy's engineering trades are also closely related to construction skills. We hope to be able to formulate a skills translator that takes these things into account, but that is a bit down the road in terms of program development. For a number of the officer and senior non-commissioned people, their skills are transferable as well to a civilian occupation. An engineer is an engineer and a logistical officer is able to deal with supply chain management issues, whether it is with fuel and ammunition or with pipe and fittings for a project. We hope not to just transition skilled trades from the military, but also senior level people into management positions with our contractors.

I will give a quick background as to why the construction industry is desperate for highly skilled people. The construction sector council predicts that by 2017 somewhere in the vicinity of 320,000 people will be required to fill the aging demographic shift and retirements. With only a relatively small number of Canadian Forces personnel transitioning — from my initial research about 5,000 a year — it means we really have an opportunity to get it right for these men and women.

Across our organizations we have relationships with construction employers big and small. Our goal with the Helmets to Hardhats is to place as many as possible into good, high-paying jobs. There is a need for supervisors, engineers and other management roles, as I mentioned. We will endeavour to place these folks.

We also hope to attract serving reservists into the industry. A lot of them are currently in school. Through the bargaining process, we have agreed with our employer partners across Canada to generous military leave policy to accommodate their service. Even without a formalized system, so to speak, we have managed to leverage relationships in the field with various bases across Canada.

The recent announcement with Prime Minister Harper in January was recognition of the need to be more intentional in our actions. The boilermakers in Edmonton have taken in a number of welders from CFB Edmonton; the shipyards in British Columbia have worked with CFB Esquimalt; and in Toronto the pipefitters transitioned a number from CFB Toronto. The program will be lean, functional and realistic.

On an operational update, we are currently in the process of hiring an executive director. The interviews are actually set up for next week. We are in the process of launching joint marketing initiatives with Veterans Affairs Canada, the Transition Assistance Program, as part of VAC and DND, to ensure we are targeting the right people who are leaving the military in the next number of months and years. We hope to offer options to those people who are in transition from military life.

One of our first steps will be to have a website up and running that will allow military members to access opportunities from wherever they are in the world, such as Afghanistan or other places where they currently may be. The RFP is out for the web portal and submissions are now being completed and being evaluated. Our goal is to have this portal site functioning by Q3 of this year and in operation by November.

We are also in the sales mode, seeking more owner and contractor partners to join TransCanada. As background, TransCanada is one of our major employers across North America and they donated $1 million over five years to this project. The Government of Alberta has matched the funding put in by the Government of Canada through Veterans Affairs. I believe it is the Community Engagement Partnership Fund in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In terms of that, we are seeking other owners and contractors to join us. We are also hosting a gala in Toronto on May 23, which is intended as a fundraiser and is being hosted by our contractor partners who do all the interior systems work, including the carpenters, the drywall folks, et cetera, and all their contractor partners.

The program was launched formally by an announcement made by the Prime Minister at the boilermakers training centre in Edmonton on January 6. This centre is one of 350 such training centres we have across Canada. It is a well- kept secret on which the construction unions spend about a quarter of a billion dollars a year annually for industry training. We maintain the training infrastructure, which is worth about $600 million.

We are the largest private trainers in the country, second only to government. Much of the initial training that the military members will receive, which is what this committee wants to hear about, will be given at these facilities. These facilities are maintained by contributions from the collective agreements that members pay into and not from government. We fund our training with our employer partners through labour trust funds.

This program will give transitioning veterans a career in one of Canada's most dynamic industries. These jobs are not low-skilled, menial jobs but high-skilled, high-paying and challenging careers.

As a side note, I should have become an electrician rather than going to university and taking political science. I might not drive a Honda Civic.

We are not talking about menial jobs; we are talking about high-paying, challenging careers with exceptional benefit packages for the military members. When considering what they have done for us, it is the least our industry can do for them.

In summary, I want to link this to other things we are working on and then I will wrap up. The program is a good example of how the building trade works in partnership with various levels of government, our contractors, and also large energy owners. There has been discussion recently in the media in Ottawa and the House of Commons about how unions spend their money, about accountability and transparency as outlined in a private member's bill, Bill C-377.

This discussion in Bill C-377 was started by our commercial competitors. These commercial competitors want to see our books so they can hammer us at the bargaining table, or perhaps they wrongly think we are partisans or political enemies. I can assure you that the building trade unions are partners with government in Canada's oil sands and strong partners with oil sands producers. As well, 45 per cent of our national membership is engaged in oil and gas in some way.

Did you know that the building trade unions took over the yes side in the Keystone pipeline debate to ensure Canadian and Alberta jobs continue to multiply? Did you know we have been supporting the regulatory reform Minister Oliver and Prime Minister Harper are trumpeting around Canada? We have been working well together since 2006.

With Bill C-377, why critically damage the relationship with our organizations through something trivial and heavy- handed? When I think of Helmets to Hardhats, I can think of no better example of investing our members' money in these positive initiatives. It seems like the PMO and Veterans Affairs agreed in January.

That is my pitch. There has been a parallel program for the U.S. veterans for some time. It is a mature program. I am really glad you called on Mr. Roberts to discuss that program. He has joined us today by video conference and I hope he gives you a good overview of the experience in the United States.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Smillie. Mr. Roberts, welcome to you. You have the floor.

Darrell Roberts, Executive Director, Helmets to Hardhats (U.S.): Thank you to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. I want to commend you on your work in looking at the transitioning issues that face veterans in Canada.

The Helmets to Hardhats program started nine years ago. It was a joint labour-management venture. Labour and management got together on the management side. It was the different associations and contractors, anywhere from the Association of Union Constructors to NECA, which is the National Electrical Contractors Association, to SMWIA, which is the sheet metal workers. There are multiple associations, and then the building construction trades departments and their 13 affiliates.

The labour and management group discussed the shortage we will be facing with this huge loss in skilled labour, as Mr. Smillie mentioned. At the same time, they were having discussions with a retired marine general from the United States Marine Corps. The general spoke to the building construction trades, and they discussed the high unemployment of veterans. Our number in the United States was disgraceful. Too many military members are without work when they return from wars and when they return from service to our country.

The labour and management group created the Helmets to Hardhats program. It is overviewed by the Center for Military Recruitment Assessment and Veterans' Employment, which is a national 501(c)3 non-profit. They launched the program in 2003. They created a website. Just as in Canada, the military personnel or reserve National Guard will be able to see the quality careers that are out there.

These careers will be posted by apprenticeship-trained directors. These apprenticeships last anywhere from three to five years, so if you are in the military and maybe do not have prior experience in driving equipment or being an electrician or a plumber, then you could be accepted into one of these apprenticeships and, within a three to five-year period, become a master journeyperson. These are quality careers, going on while you are learning, and going to class.

In the United States, at the same time that these military members are attending the apprenticeship, they will actually receive, or could receive, Montgomery GI Bill benefits.

With the partnership of our management members, there could be other careers within the office. We have a partnership with Disney. They have hired through us for some of their management or office positions. We also have partnerships with utility companies and recently had marines with secret clearance and a background in nuclear security find work at power plants here in the United States. There is a wide range of different areas that these veterans may work in. We do this with the website and a toll-free number for military members who do not have access to the Internet. If they are already out of the military, maybe they have returned home and lack a computer. They can call us on the toll-free number, and we will help them at that point in time. We act as mentors and counsellors. The veteran may come to us and not be aware of the careers that are in the area to which they are returning. We will reach out to the area through our connections or through our regional directors based throughout the United States.

The regional directors are where the rubber meets the road. They will travel to military installations and create partnerships at the local level. They may go into an air force base, a navy base, or a marine corps base, and they will speak about the careers that are currently out there and about the fact that no prior training is actually necessary. They will work to transition active-duty military members from their military life to their civilian life.

Is this going too slow, or is this about right?

The Deputy Chair: You are fine. Thank you very much.

Mr. Roberts: We found, over the last nine years, that the transition from active duty to the civilian life can be traumatic for some veterans. They have difficulty understanding how their military training may transfer into a civilian career, and many of them are unaware of the soft skills they have acquired: being punctual, understanding a chain of command, respect, honour, being drug free while in the military, having a security clearance, being able to take leadership roles, and accomplishing missions.

Too often, this does not transfer well with the veteran as he or she leaves the military, and we find that we need to help them to understand that they have these skills and how that transfers into the civilian life. By creating the Helmets to Hardhats program, we look to smooth the transition. As a national overview, quality employers and quality apprenticeships will acquire some of the best citizens out there, the men and women who have volunteered to serve and protect their country. At the same time, we feel that, to a great degree, the military personnel will find careers that will allow them to attain their dreams, whatever they may be, and earn a good living while doing so. They are careers with good benefits.

In 2007, we started up the Wounded Warriors Program to work in conjunction with Helmets to Hardhats to ensure that our wounded veterans were being equally reached and also knew that there were quality careers out there. As an overview, in 2011, we were aware of 568 successful transitions. This number is down from our normal numbers. We typically see from 1,500 to 1,900 transitions a year. Of the 568 successful transitions in 2011, 53 of them were wounded warriors, which translates to a 30 per cent or more disability rate for the military veteran. They have acquired this disability while in service to our country.

The program has been successful in helping our veterans find these careers. One of our national objectives has been to reach the military person while he or she is still on active duty. We find that, if the military person transitions without this knowledge and actually begins their civilian life, it is harder and more expensive to reach them to tell them about these careers. If we can reach the military person while they are still on active duty, we have a better transition rate. It allows them time to process the information we are giving them, and they are still, at that point, not concerned about where their next meal is coming from, how they will pay the rent, and so forth.

The different councils throughout the United States have been very upfront and helpful in this. These councils are the building and trade councils and the different regions. They welcome the veterans and the transitioning active-duty military members with open arms. I have heard, countless times, throughout the United States, that, if I could find 10 more veterans like the person they hired before, they would take all 10.

The United States has faced huge rates of unemployment and job loss in construction careers simply because of our current economy, but that has not stopped our partners reaching out to our military members to offer them a chance to come into their crafts or into their companies. We have found, throughout the last nine years, that these successfully transitioned veterans actually have a higher completion rate for these three to five-year apprenticeships. While we do not have exact numbers, we are currently working on a study to find them. We know that the veterans have an easier transition into the crafts and the companies and are more likely to stay around, learn the entire time that they are there, and actually complete the apprenticeship.

In different parts of the United States, we find that we may have more success with certain kinds of bases. For instance, with the navy, there are higher transitional rates. In other words, if I was a welder in the navy, I would be much more qualified to transfer into a welding position with the pipefitters or any of the other crafts. However, we find that a majority of our personnel are coming from the ranks of the infantry and from different backgrounds. We are not sure if that is because they have the ability to go to school and learn a craft or because they are ready for a change. We are unsure why that is yet, but that seems to be what the data shows us.

In closing, the program has been very successful in the United States. To some degree, this program has been used as a template for many other programs, whether it be with miners, car manufacturing companies, or private contractors who come to us and ask how they can work more with our veterans, our active-duty military members, and our utility companies.

I do not have to say it to a Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs; you are very much aware as you are studying the transition issues for your veterans in Canada. As Mr. Smillie said, it is the least we can do for the men and women who have served so bravely to ensure that our country is protected, that employers see the gain they make in such quality employees, and that our military members are able to find a great career and have successful lives with it. That is all I really have. If there are any questions, I appreciate your time.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Roberts. Let me just echo your sentiments in how great these programs are. It is the least that we can do for our men and women in uniform. Indeed, it is a win-win situation for our men and women, who have served us so well, as well as for the industry.

Thank you for those presentations. We will go to questions, and we will start with Senator Nolin.

Senator Nolin: Thank you to both of you for accepting our invitation to be with us this afternoon.

I will focus on my question to Mr. Roberts because of the last nine years of experience. You have covered a lot of ground, sir, but I have a few questions. First, how long have you been the executive director of the program?

Mr. Roberts: In 2007, I took over the national program. One year and a half before that, I ran a state program in the state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Nolin: A similar program?

Mr. Roberts: It was a very similar program. I worked only with the veterans of Pennsylvania and the careers within the state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Nolin: You have lengthy experience in that transition.

My first question is quite down to earth. How do employers benefit from the program?

Mr. Roberts: First, the employers are able to get access to these military veterans. Many of our contractors may be based in a specific state. They are from small to large sizes, and, while they may operate at a national level, we find that not many of them have a military outreach program. To some degree, you have to speak to the human resources of that company and say, "Here are these benefits of a military veteran. Would you like for your employees to show up on time? Would you like for them to understand the chain of command and how your company works?'' We then give them access, through us, to these personnel. In other words, we will go to a military installation if we are at a career or a job fair in their area, and we will invite them to come with us so that they may meet the veterans as they are coming forward. In many instances, this is the first time contractors have access to these military personnel. If they have never served or understood, sometimes it is a large eye opener for them, but it is access to these people.

Senator Nolin: That brings me to my second question. What challenges have been encountered throughout the program in finding private sector partners? You have just alluded to one, but is that the major challenge that you are facing? What are the challenges you face trying to find those partners?

Mr. Roberts: For us in the United States, our transitional program — that is, working with the active duty military personnel as they transition — is in a flux. It is changing. To take a look at our unemployment numbers for our veterans is a huge step in recognizing that we need to change it, and they are.

Our biggest challenge has been getting the word not only to the military veteran but also to the contractors. It is a constant battle to go to the different contractors and speak to them and say "This is your ability. By working with this program, this is what you can attract, the type of employees you can attract and the abilities that you have.''

A human resource manager may change and the program introduction that you gave to the personnel in human resources at the company may have to be reintroduced to them with time. With the military side, it is pretty much the same challenge. Over the next year, the United States military will transition approximately 250,000 military personnel each year. Getting the word to the military and marketing these careers to them is a huge challenge for us. It is playing that balance game between keeping the contractors aware and interested with new employees, and then also that constant change of the military, marketing and keeping them aware of these quality careers.

Those are our two biggest challenges, just keeping the word going.

Senator Nolin: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Roberts: Thank you, sir.

The Deputy Chair: The next senator will be Senator Mitchell, followed by Senator Di Nino.

Senator Mitchell: Thank you, gentlemen, both of you, for stimulating presentations.

I wanted to mention to Mr. Smillie that driving a Honda is good for the environment. Do not be disappointed, man.

My question is for both of you, but it was stimulated by the inspired gender neutral reference by our representative from the United States, Mr. Roberts, when he said "journeyperson.'' It is inspiring to use that, and it says something about your approach to this whole problem. I would like to know whether there are particular problems faced by women, military personnel, ex-personnel and retired, in this transition. Do they have particular kinds of obstacles or challenges to overcome? Do your programs adjust in any particular way to that?

I guess a corollary of all of that is this: Are women more inclined to seek out your help than men?

Mr. Roberts: We do face different issues with our women veterans. Studies show that a woman veteran is less likely, first, to self-identify as a veteran. We already have that issue among all our veterans, but it would seem that the woman veteran is less likely to say in an interview or to identify that she has served in the military. That is one stumbling block that we face.

Second, we do not get a higher number proportionally speaking of women veterans approaching us as opposed to men. It is an area that we are working on. For instance, we are getting ready to work with a program called Women Veterans Rock in the United States. It focuses on women veterans who are transitioning. We want to ensure that, with the crafts and the different careers, they are aware that they can approach this. There is no particular craft or office position that we have which women seem to go after as opposed to men. We have tried to keep it very neutral. In other words, if a company contacted us and said, "Could you just send me women veterans,'' I would say no. You can certainly do a posting and say, "I am looking for females to approach the position,'' but as a Helmets to Hardhats program, they are all veterans to us.

Regardless of gender, every position that we post is available for anyone — man or woman, it does not matter. We have not found in our studies one craft that they like over any other. We find that their numbers are lower than we like and this year, we are making a concerted effort to push those numbers up. The trades themselves are doing a great deal in this area. This year there will be the seventh or eighth Women in Construction event conference in California. We will be in attendance to speak about our women veterans and the transitional issues they face. However, to say that the number is higher, no, it is not.

Mr. Smillie: Senator Mitchell, you raise a good question. At the base level of this question is in the construction industry, we have an issue with participation of non-traditional groups in our trades. We do not have a high penetration of female skilled trade folks in Canada. I think our penetration rate is in the 2 to 3 per cent rate in the industry as a whole. Mr. Roberts hit it on the head in that we are trying to change that.

With this program, we are hoping there is an opportunity to promote and move down that road.

We did a national survey of our membership about the penetration rate, male/female. It is much lower than we would like.

For your reference, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the house did a study last year on non- traditional participants in the trades. I would suggest maybe the clerk can grab their findings from that study. There were some really neat things about the challenges of bringing non-traditional folks to the construction industry, and also Aboriginals. It is a really good opportunity to engage Aboriginal folks. There are contractors in Alberta that we work with that are so-called Aboriginal contractors. These are the kinds of groups that we will be able to control and target a bit more in our industry. I can assure you, TransCanada and some of our contractors have an interest in employing local people, especially Enbridge, given some of the territories and areas they are moving through.

In Canada we will try and control that a little bit better down the road, but it is an institutional problem that our industry has.

Senator Mitchell: Thank you.

Mr. Roberts: If I may add one last thing, we have found in particular one of the crafts has reached out to us: the carpenters. They have a great deal of effort going on, as do all the crafts, in regard to bringing women in. They have done an internal study and found that women veterans, as I spoke to earlier, will stay, finish the process and actually become that journeyperson. They have found they have a huge success rate with women veterans, and I think that speaks to it all.

The Deputy Chair: Could I just make an observation, senator, before you ask your next question on this?

I have been involved in the construction industry all my life, and I know that the percentage of women in the construction industry has always been low. However, I know that you mentioned, Mr. Smillie, about some of the work in the oil and gas industry. I was in Fort McMurray a few years ago, and saw the massive big trucks that they have driving the stuff around. I think there were more women driving those big rigs than there were men, so there are those areas they are clearly interested in.

Senator Mitchell: It also speaks to how progressive the Alberta society is.

Mr. Smillie: Coming from Alberta.

Senator Mitchell: Yes, coming from Alberta.

I do not know whether this is a question, but it is an observation. I was struck by Mr. Roberts — Mr. Smillie you alluded to this as well — and this idea of trying to inform employers of the tremendous advantages of veterans as employees. You listed several things, like showing up for work on time and so on.

It particularly struck me when I was a younger person that the only place you could really get leadership training in our society, specifically, was in the military and perhaps some police forces and so on. There is more of that elsewhere now, I think, but nevertheless, a core element of someone who is at any level in the military is training and an ability to lead. That is, of course, extremely important in industry at every level as well. I throw that out. You can comment if you would like.

Mr. Smillie: I will comment quickly.

In construction right now, the highest in demand occupation, aside from welders and direct tradespeople, is supervisors. Usually in construction the person who has worked longest on the job site or in the community becomes the foreperson or the foreman, as the male-dominated industry would say. However, if we are bringing natural leaders into our organizations through programs like this, it absolutely fills legs and boots, as we say, to supervise folks on construction sites.

If you talk to the Construction Sector Council, the group that does labour market information, beyond the immediate need for welders and electricians, the next in demand trade is leaders/supervisors, so your point is bang on.

The Deputy Chair: Mr. Roberts, do you have anything to add to that?

Mr. Roberts: That is an excellent point, sir.

Senator Mitchell: This is more a comment than a question, but I was also really interested, Mr. Smillie, in your point about how the building trades and the unions are partners. In this day and age of we/they politics and debate, I think that is a very powerful and important point. I would like to congratulate your building tradespeople and others on that, and emphasize that point as well. I think it is well taken.

Mr. Smillie: Thank you.

Senator Di Nino: Thank you, chair and gentlemen, welcome.

I, too, would like to commence by congratulating particularly our American brothers for what I think is an exceptionally creative way of helping to reintegrate members of the military when that particular career, for whatever reason, is finished.

Truly, when I first heard about it I thought it was brilliant. I am glad that the Canadians are taking this up.

The construction industry in particular, it has already been stated, has been having a great deal of difficulty attracting sufficient tradespeople, and I think that is across all trades.

I have a couple of questions. Let me start with Mr. Smillie first.

I believe you said that you were working with the different industry trades on this. Are you saying then that for the members of the military to participate, they would have to join a trade union?

Mr. Smillie: That is a good question. It is not necessary. However, our relationships with our contractors are based on collective agreements. If our contractors are going to hire these folks, it means they become members on the job site. We are not limiting the program to non-union. If non-union contractors want to participate, help us and support us in this endeavour, by all means we are definitely engaged in that sense. However, to me, it is not a union or a non-union contractor issue.

This is an issue of doing the right thing for industry and for veterans. Union or non-union, you can go. We are going to transition you to where you want. At the end of the day, if any contractor says to us, "We are going to take these folks,'' then we are going to transition that person. This program is bigger than the commercial fight that goes on across the country between union and non-union members. For now, it is really the only way we can figure out how to start it; if non-union contractors want to join us, absolutely.

It would be great if they would help fund the program too.

Senator Di Nino: I was not really thinking about the conflict. I was actually thinking about the potential exclusion of one sector of the economy that, for whatever reason, may not be under a union flag.

Mr. Smillie: Yes.

Senator Di Nino: I have many friends in the union business that provide opportunities for these. If I understand you correctly, you are just beginning to set up this program?

Mr. Smillie: Yes, sir.

Senator Di Nino: Do you have any training facilities established or are you working with organizations that have training facilities?

Mr. Smillie: We are the Canadian building trades, so the program will be run out of our office here in Ottawa. The program will have access to the 400 or so training centres across Canada which fall under the trades across the country. The carpenters are offering up their training centres, the pipefitters. Go across the list of trades that the building trades represent; those assets will be used for this program. The training centres that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, maintain and run, that is sort of all in-kind contribution from the building trades to get these people ready.

Senator Di Nino: My friend Joe Mancinelli runs the LiUNA organization in Canada. They have a number of training centres across the country, particularly in Ontario. These are the kinds of places that these men and women would be sent to for training, as well as Ucal Powell of the Carpenters' Union.

Mr. Smillie: Yes.

Senator Di Nino: They would be providing the training for the men and women.

They are all union shops, and that is really the point I was trying to make. It is not that I am concerned about it, because both of those two gentlemen are friends of mine and I respect them greatly.

How would non-union shops participate, if they wanted to, if they are all going through a union shop, requiring that they would join the union?

Mr. Smillie: There is only really one alternative in the marketplace. There are no non-union shop training centres. The only places that are training skilled tradespeople in Canada, generally, are community colleges and union training centres. There are no non-union training centres that we could send these folks to; those do not exist. I would never speak badly of that side of the economy, but those folks do not train. They do not invest in training centres like the union side does.

Senator Di Nino: Are you partnering with community colleges?

Mr. Smillie: Absolutely. Usually community colleges do pre-apprentice programs, which are designed to get folks ready. I am thinking we skip that step with our military people and get them directly into industry. To turn around and say, "No, Mr. Pipefitter from the Navy — sorry, you have to go to community college first'' is absolutely the wrong move. This is to get them connected to industry right away.

If the community colleges want to assist with overflow training, or if they want to assist with some of their infrastructure because they have some training programs as well, we would absolutely partner with them.

Oftentimes the building trades is the only deliverer of provincial curriculum for some of these trades. For example, the operating engineers in Oakville have the only training facility in Ontario to train large crane operators; there is no other training facility.

That is the sort of landscape we have.

Senator Di Nino: I just have one last question for you and then a quick question to Mr. Roberts.

Is the cost of the training shared between the different levels of government, or between the federal government and the trades associations, or is it from one source?

Mr. Smillie: The training that we do at all of our training centres is funded by collective agreements. It is funded by workers and it is funded by employers who contribute to labour trusts. Those labour trusts administer the training program.

When the building trades is delivering provincial curriculum, then there is funding from the provincial government to that training centre. Just so you are aware, there was direct investment from the federal government with the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, the KIP from the stimulus.

Senator Di Nino: Thank you for that.

Mr. Roberts, you have had some experience now for some 10 years. What obstacles did you have to overcome? Where did you discover issues that needed to be dealt with? Maybe we could learn something from that.

Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question.

For the program initially starting, the partnerships that you will build on the ground with your defence sector, your partnerships with the bases where these military members will be transitioning from, are very important and key.

As the Helmets to Hardhats program begins to function in Canada, from the ground, the initial outreach to the bases to show what the careers are about is key. If I were a Navy person, what could I get into when I come into that and what would the wages be? It would just be the information.

If that initial connection with your military bases is done and they like what they see, then the proof is in the pudding. As they see their personnel transitioning and these personnel are pleased with the transitional help and the careers they are finding, then that will get that battle done for you and give you good material to put out there.

I would think that is one of the key obstacles.

Senator Di Nino: Thank you.

Some of those I call our heroes come back with physical or mental difficulties. Is this something that is taken into consideration when the program is being run?

Mr. Roberts: Yes. We strive to ensure that all our actions, while not being gender specific or even specific to our wounded warriors, is neutral across the board. Our outreach efforts to our wounded warriors are based around ensuring that they are aware of the careers and they can then self-select. We make it a practice not to go forward and say, "You cannot do this because of this.'' We say, "Here is the information. Tell us how you wish for us to proceed. Ask us the questions you feel need to be asked.''

For example, I worked with a gentleman from Pennsylvania for quite some time. When he went for his interview, he called me on the road on the last day while he was driving and he said he was nervous — I could tell he was nervous. He said, "Mr. Roberts, I am missing my left foot.'' He was out to be an electrician. He quickly scrambled to say, "I can climb any ladder, I can do anything.'' Therefore, I said, "Well, sir, you will be good to go because that will not have any impact whatsoever on what you will do.'' He is an electrician. He is working and doing well.

Whether it is a post-traumatic stress or a traumatic brain injury, we allow the contractors and the crafts and the veterans to see one another, to talk to one another, and then they can choose what their best career choices are.

Senator Di Nino: Thank you for that.

Senator Day: Mr. Roberts and Mr. Smillie both, thank you very much for being here. I would like to understand the basis of your organization. Mr. Roberts, we could start with you. Are you employed by the Department of Defence or by a separate organization?

Mr. Roberts: I am employed by a separate organization.

[technical difficulties]

Senator Day: I do not know if you can hear me, Mr. Roberts, but we are not hearing you right now.

The Deputy Chair: I do not think he can hear you now, either. He is gone. Why do you not direct your question to Mr. Smillie first?

Senator Day: If Mr. Roberts comes back, we can hear from him then.

Our briefing note indicates that the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans' Employment was the originator of the concept. Then the building trades in the U.S. got involved and the AFL-CIO that we have heard about is one of the major sponsors of the program. It is not-for-profit.

Mr. Smillie: Right.

Senator Day: That is important, and it is a separate not-for-profit entity. How about in Canada? Are you a separate, not-for-profit entity?

Mr. Smillie: I think the question you are asking is how we will fund ourselves.

Senator Day: That is question number two. I want to know who you are before I know how you fund yourself.

Mr. Smillie: Helmets to Hardhats has been set up as a not-for-profit organization. We will have a board of directors made up of contractors and construction trade leaders. For the first little while, for practical reasons and to keep things lean, there will be a relationship with the Canadian building trades. I think the executive director will sit in the office next to me. That is part of the contribution that the building trades is making to the system. However, it will really be not-for-profit.

I can lead right into your second question: We have funding established for the first three years. TransCanada Corporation gave us $1 million. The Government of Canada donated $150,000, and the Government of Alberta matched the federal government's contribution. Then we are doing a special levy nationally to each of our people in the field. We are doing a one-time $2 levy to each of our folks. That will be our contribution —

The Deputy Chair: Mr. Smillie, I will interject, just to ensure Mr. Roberts knows that we have him back now. Can you hear us?

Mr. Roberts: Yes, sir.

The Deputy Chair: We will let Mr. Smillie finish answering. We did lose most of what you said before, so please start at the beginning again in answering Senator Day's question when Mr. Smillie is done.

Mr. Smillie: That is the initial funding structure. We will be going out to direct people in the field and looking for their support. It is a not-for-profit; we are going to operate on donations from governments and from individual building trades workers, people who go to work every day.

You can imagine that process takes a little longer than TransCanada writing us a cheque, but we are endeavouring to do so on a sustaining basis. I am assuming Helmets to Hardhats will be like any other not-for-profit, doing their policy things on one hand and then making sure there is enduring funding on the other.

Senator Day: I will ask Mr. Smillie another question, just to round out the fundraising and how they fund themselves. Do you expect a fee from each individual that you help with a placement or do you get a fee from the employer you have successfully helped?

Mr. Smillie: We will not be on a fee-for-service basis, and the employers will not be paying Helmets to Hardhats Canada.

Senator Day: Do each of your employer partners pay a fee to be a partner?

Mr. Smillie: We are setting it up so that if they want to be a financial partner, they can donate and be a sponsor of the program. Certainly, we would not limit to placing people only in companies that have contributed to our program.

Senator Day: Mr. Roberts, we are back to you. I am glad you were able to return to us.

Mr. Roberts: It was nothing on my part. It just started working again.

Senator Day: We are getting good reception. Could you tell me a bit about how your organization got established? Was it an initiative of the trade unions or was it an initiative of the Department of Defense that got things going and went out and found various trade unions where they thought some of their retiring military people might find employment?

Mr. Roberts: To answer the first question, I do not know if this came through the first time, I am not a Department of Defense employee. I am an employee of a non-profit.

With the onset of the program in 2002, when they first started talking about it, funding and the concept initially came from a veteran and the building trades. They then spoke to their different partners. The Department of Defense became a partner. The different trade unions were there at the table at the beginning. They brought in their management partners and they have all worked together. The DOD did not seek it out initially. While they are quality partners this day, initially it was just the building trade unions and their management partners working with a concerned veteran.

Senator Day: We can learn a lot from you in regard to this initiative. In Canada, our New Veterans Charter has a mandate to help with transition. They have offices across the country that provide for educating those who are about to become veterans, those military personnel. In your case, it sounds like you have representatives who go to the bases to do the same thing as Veterans Affairs should be doing in Canada. Am I reading that correctly?

Mr. Roberts: That is a partial correct read. We do have representatives and volunteers who go to the bases. Our Veterans Affairs representatives also will work with veterans once they are outside the military, and then we have a transitional assistance program of civilian personnel working with the active duty military personnel right before they become veterans.

On the civilian side, if I am active duty navy personnel, right before I transfer I will be spoken to by a civilian person who I believe is DOD, and he or she will tell me about what I can expect. They will introduce me to the VA programs. That point in time is normally when a veteran or a representative from Helmets to Hardhats will make a presentation. After they transition and become an actual veteran is when our Veterans Affairs begins to work with them as well.

Senator Day: Our Veterans Affairs work a little bit before that to try to get them ready for transition, our New Veterans Charter. One of the other points that was made by Department of Defence and Veterans Affairs representatives who have been before us is that they are anticipating what we have been talking about here in terms of qualifications and they are trying to ensure that the study and work that the military personnel do while in the armed forces will give them a level of qualification so that the transition will be easier once they come out, rather than saying we have this man who was a pipefitter in the navy; let us work him up to pipefitter standards and qualifications in the private sector. Do you have that kind of initiative going on that will make the transition easier? After you have answered, I will ask Mr. Smillie to comment on that as well.

Mr. Roberts: Yes, we do have a process of that in place. The different crafts throughout the civilian sector have been working to recognize prior military training to give the veterans a leg up. If certain welding procedures will allow the veteran to transition to a higher level of apprenticeship or in some cases not even serve an apprenticeship, this is being done throughout many of the crafts. Yes, that process is in place, and it has been for I would say almost all nine years of the program being around.

Mr. Smillie: That is a great question. In Canada, in the construction industry we have the Red Seal Program, which is a mobility system. If you are a tradesperson from Ontario and you have a licence, that Red Seal Program allows you to work in Alberta or other provinces. The military trades line up quite nicely to the Red Seal Program and the trades that do exist in the economy. I am still working with Veterans Affairs and with DND to get them meshed up exactly, but our intention is to match up a military trade to the Red Seal Program. The Red Seal Program, for instance, requires a number of thousand hours experience. I have to back up a moment because the provinces are the ones that issue licences in the skilled trades. The Red Seal Program is the clearing house for skilled trades in Canada. My pitch to Veterans Affairs will be, and is, and has been for the last number of years while we have been trying to get this thing going, is that we need to mesh up the Red Seal Program with the military trades in advance so we have that matrix ready to go.

Veterans Affairs knows who is leaving and when they are leaving, so it would be a nice system to mesh up the two before they go, or six months before they go. That kind of thing is essential in a program like this.

The worst thing that can happen, in my view, is someone transitions out, they have never heard of us, and they show up down at the union hall. They go see Mr. Mancinelli's people in Hamilton and no one has heard of this. We are trying to organize a system that meshes the Red Seal Program and the provincial licensing systems to the military trades. It is easier on the military side because there is only one set of standards inside the military.

In Canada, because we are licensed by the provinces, it is a bit of a mishmash, but the Red Seal Program works really well. I know you are not supposed to use props in politics. If you have the Red Seal Program here and the military trades here, we want to line them up before they leave. Contractors know that the system is sound and that these people are qualified. It does not work if they get to the job site and they do not have the qualification or the licence to show the employer that they are able do the work. This is a key part of homework that DND, Veterans Affairs and we in the program need to get right to ensure that day 1 there is some sort of recognition.

The Deputy Chair: I have a supplementary question, but I will let you finish and then I will ask it.

Senator Day: It is primarily of Mr. Roberts again. You intrigued me when you said there were state programs where you used to work that are similar to this type of program. Could you expand and tell me whether there are other programs statewide or nationally, other than the Helmets to Hardhats-type program, trying to achieve the same thing, maybe not originating with the skilled trades but coming from the employers' association or some other source?

Mr. Roberts: There is a program called Troops to Teachers, and I think it has been around longer than Helmets to Hardhats has been in the United States, if not close to the same amount of time. That is taking military personnel who have a college degree in certain areas and helping them transfer to become a teacher in the public school system, within the United States.

There is a Heroes to Health Care program, and that is looking at the military personnel who have either been combat medics or nurses in the United States military with certifications to be able to transfer over to EMT, emergency medical technicians, nurses within the civilian side and so forth. That is just to name a few.

There are multiple programs out there taking a look at all the money being spent by the government on our military personnel and those certifications as they are coming out as to how to do that smooth transition so that their prior training is recognized. Troops to Teachers, Heroes to Health Care are just two, but different contractors have programs going on as well, and that is all internal, though.

Mr. Smillie: The only one I can think of in Canada is Little Caesars, the pizza joints. I believe they have a franchise opportunity for veterans. I think it is a discount-based franchise. Do not quote me on that, but check with the Little Caesars people.

I believe there also may be something with the Royal Bank of Canada. I am thinking back to my banker days, and they may have a program similar to this, to bring folks into the financial community.

The Deputy Chair: My question is supplementary both to what Senator Day and Senator Di Nino were talking about. Senator Di Nino talked about trade unions and our program being a little more targeted to the union side of the industry. I was going to ask the question about the Red Seal Program. I have a red seal ticket in the plumbing industry. My sons run a small plumbing company. They would not be large enough possibly to be a large financial contributor, but let us say they want to hire someone who is a veteran. In Manitoba, you can challenge the program. You can write an exam and challenge, even if you do not have the hours or the red seal ticket.

With respect to the small contractor that needs to hire some plumbers and would like to hire a veteran, but that contractor is not part of the industry, will your program do something to help small contractors fulfill what they deem as their duty in trying to help our veterans?

Mr. Smillie: If they will come on as an employer that is willing to hire, absolutely, we will not turn companies away because they are small in size. As you pointed out with respect to the PCLs and the EllisDons of the world, there are five or six major construction contractors. The rest of the industry is made up of, as you mentioned, small subcontractors that oftentimes are the ones who do the work. Absolutely, if they are willing to hire people, that is the goal of the program. The issue is bigger than small company, big company, who is a signatory and who is not to our agreements. This is something we are doing because it is the right thing to do.

It is interesting. With some of the publicity we have tried to generate in January around this, we have already had companies contact us and say that they are a sheet metal company in Manitoba or a sheet metal company in New Brunswick, I believe, and that they wanted to participate and directly hire people. We would not turn those folks away.

The Deputy Chair: That is wonderful. In your presentation, Mr. Smillie, you alluded to some people being hired already in the shipbuilding industry in Esquimalt. Will the huge contracts that have been let in the shipbuilding industry benefit this program in any way? Are you actively looking at getting people involved there?

Mr. Smillie: We are actively talking to the shipbuilding contractors, so it would be the Washington marine groups, the Halifax dockyards, the Irvings of the world.

The key thing is touching the contractors who will do the work, and one of the ways that we try to do that is talking to the owners or the people who are purchasing the end product. If they make a suggestion in their commercial terms that they would like their contractors to try to hire veterans or non-traditional participants in the industry, we found that is a really effective way, if oil company X says we have an internal policy to hire 10 per cent of Aboriginals from local markets. Shipbuilding is huge for Nova Scotia, so it is up to Irving and the folks doing the actual work to get involved and to demand this kind of thing on their job site. At end of the day, they control who comes on to their site. Of course, we are working with the large partners in shipbuilding. Hopefully, we will be able to get some traction into the 30 or $40 billion worth of shipbuilding contracts that are coming.

The Deputy Chair: My last question is to both of you, and, again, we have had great presentations. We have Helmets to Hardhats in the United States. They have a proven track record and have been working for nine years. Can we take it that you two gentlemen and others will be working collaboratively with each other and that we can learn from some of the things that have gone right or wrong south of the border?

Mr. Smillie: Mr. Roberts likes me some days and does not like me on others.

The Deputy Chair: That is very similar to the Senate.

Mr. Smillie: Correct. Mr. Roberts and I know each other. You have our commitment that we will use the American experience to make the Canadian one as good or better. We have the opportunity to start with a fresh piece of paper here, but this is for the benefit of the veterans, not anyone in particular.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you.

Senator Mitchell: I want to go back to the answer where you used the prop and you meshed things together. It strikes me that that process would be quite complicated, difficult, time consuming and costly. Who pays for you to do it, for your part in all that? Is it just part of your budget, part of the money you raise, no government money?

Mr. Smillie: No. The Helmets to Hardhats initiative is the first time in a while, other than direct money into a program I believe the Liberals had, which was the infrastructure fund. It is the first time in a long time that direct money has come into the building trades for a national initiative.

The Deputy Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your presentations. It has been enlightening, and good luck with your programs.

(The committee adjourned.)

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