The Electrical Worker online
September 2019

VEEP Bridges the Gap
Between the Military and What's Next
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The transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult one for servicemen and women.

Gone are the regular paychecks, the structure, the camaraderie and the shared sense of mission. That first step after military discharge often feels like a leap into the unknown.

But for soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines looking for a career in the trades, the Veterans Electrical Entry Program can solve a lot of those problems.

"We're a great fit," said Kyle Kaiser, Lead Organizer for Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547, who works with VEEP. "It's great for the servicemembers and it's great for the IBEW."

Local 1547's is the first JATC to jointly host the VEEP curriculum with the IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association's longtime training arm, the Electrical Training Alliance. Executive Director Todd Stafford says ETA is working to expand the program to other locals and training centers close to major military bases.

Anchorage is home to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where thousands of U.S. servicemembers are stationed, often far removed from the places they'll call home when their service ends.

VEEP works with base leadership to provide an opportunity for servicemen and women in their final six months to complete their first year of apprenticeship training in an intensive, full-time course.

The free, seven-week pre-apprenticeship training works in tandem with the more than 300 JATCs across the U.S. to place servicemembers in IBEW apprenticeships based on their top four choices.

"This is a real benefit for these folks who want to go home when they're out of the military," Stafford said. "We're able to take the huge reach of the IBEW-NECA partnership and give them the opportunity to get a head start. It takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the transition back to civilian life."

Every year, approximately 200,000 veterans transition out of the service and present a good pool of applicants for the construction workforce, says Kaiser. Not only does it benefit the military by offering a solid opportunity to its veterans, those returning civilians tend to be younger with long careers ahead. Plus, the sense of solidarity is something many are likely missing from their time in service.

"Going from one 'band of brothers' to another is important," Kaiser said. "These veterans become members and will fight for a cause they believe in. We give them a cause to fight for."

Stafford, too, is excited about the opportunity for veterans to "trade one brotherhood for another," he said. But he's also excited for the benefits to the IBEW and NECA. "The trade always needs apprentices, but these veterans are disciplined and hard working. These men and women are used to showing up on time and putting in a full day's work. They're a valuable addition to any training program we place them into."

Local 1547s' first VEEP class graduated in April with 10 out of the 11 participants finishing. Kaiser says the one who didn't complete the program got his own direct entry agreement to the JATC he was hoping for. Alaska has been a good host for VEEP since the state has the highest per capita number of veterans, Kaiser said.

"There's a lot of interest in the program and there's really no downside," he added.

At the International Convention in 2016, delegates voted on a resolution to support VEEP. It called on the union to work with the NECA and ETA to assist locals in providing training programs for veterans.

The International Office recently rolled out a veterans committee, with one representative in each district. International President Lonnie R. Stephenson is encouraging locals to set up their own committees as well.

"Our vets have given us so much. This is our chance to give something back," Stephenson said.

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The pre-apprenticeship program run out of Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547 trains veterans coming out of the military for electrical careers across the country.