Advancing National Service

A New Program Transitions Soldiers into Successful Tradesmen

May 22, 2014
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A New Program Transitions Soldiers into Successful Tradesmen
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There's free training available to former service members interested in becoming plumbers, electricians and heating and air-conditioning repairmen.

You always want the very best for your friends. That’s especially true if your pal has sacrificed by serving as a member of the United States military.

When seeing two of his Marine friends (“both extraordinary people with a lot of talent”) struggle after returning from war, Keith Mercurio of Little Canada, Minnesota had an idea. “When they came back from service, I was able to watch how they reintegrated into society—one of my friends didn’t have much to do, he was just home. These guys are having to come home where there are no jobs for them. He was having a tough time…While I am seeing this happen to my friends, I am also listening to how our businesses are having trouble finding good people. And both of these situations just didn’t make any sense to me,” Mercurio told Candace Roulo of Contractor Magazine.

Mercurio realized what his veteran friends were missing: Professional training that would qualify them for in-demand fix-it jobs.

So he met with Jack Tester, the CEO of Nexstar (a national company that organizes a network of contractors), who just happens to be his employer. (Mercurio is a sales trainer for Nexstar.) From there, the program Troops to Trades was born.

Nexstar usually only trains people who work for its own companies, but Mercurio asked his boss to open up their training to all veterans — regardless of their business affiliation. Tester agreed.

One of the beneficiaries of the program is Army veteran Bryan Daleiden, who was working in the office of Uptown Heating and Cooling in Minneapolis. Daleiden wanted to be fixing heating and cooling systems instead of completing paperwork, but he lacked the training. He applied for a scholarship from the Troops to Trades program, and they paid his expenses for a two-week training course.

“Anytime there is an opportunity to achieve higher learning in something I’m passionate about, I seize it,” Daleiden said.

Troops to Trades is run by The Nexstar Legacy Foundation, which is partnering with the American Legion to get the word out about the scholarships, training, and job placement that they offer in plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical services. The company has set up a business network whose members agree to talk to veterans about their work and offer them jobs.

Mercurio said he knew his idea would work, because people like his Marine Corps veteran friends “…did get all the skills from training in the military that anyone would ever hope for in a human being — they are reliable, respectful, disciplined, hardworking, noble and honest.”

Only now, they can fix your clogged kitchen sink, too.

MORE: This Program is Transforming Unemployed Veterans Into In-Demand Chefs

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