The Electrical Worker online
November 2023

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Welcoming Veterans

This Nov. 11, North America celebrates the immense contributions of our military veterans. Our servicemen and women are willing to give their all to protect the freedoms we hold dear, and our two nations owe them a deep debt of gratitude.

In the IBEW, one of the best ways we can thank our vets is by putting them on the path to a good-paying, rewarding career.

This is personal for me. While I did not serve, many members of my family did, including my son, my son-in-law and my father-in-law, who is a Korean War veteran.

We have always been proud to include veterans in our ranks. Former service members bring invaluable experience to the electrical trade. They know how to work with their heads and hands, work as part of a team, and live by a code of excellence and commitment.

And with the rapid growth of energy job thanks to federal investments like the Inflation Reduction Act, growing the IBEW is a bigger priority than ever, and recruiting veterans is a critical part of that.

That is what programs like VEEP and Helmets to Hardhats — which you can read more about in this issue's cover story — are all about.

Veterans face numerous challenges returning to civilian life, including higher-than-average unemployment rates, homelessness and mental health problems.

VEEP started in 2019 as a partnership with the IBEW's training arm, the Electrical Training Alliance. It's about making that transition from the military easier, ensuring that veterans can secure their spot in the middle class as soon as they leave the service.

It gives service members in their final six months of deployment the opportunity to get a head start on an IBEW career by completing their first year of apprenticeship training.

That means they are ready to start working and earning as in-demand electricians and lineworkers as soon as they return home. Not only does this program ease participants' transition back to civilian life, but it also gives the IBEW a steady supply of dedicated, skilled members ready to work rebuilding North America's energy infrastructure.

Many veterans say the best part about serving in the military is camaraderie among their fellow troops and the sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It's tough to replicate in the civilian world.

But they can find that same sense of solidarity and brotherhood in the IBEW, and we need to spread that message.

Anyone who wants more information about bringing VEEP to their local can contact my office or the ETA.

But we must do more than recruit veterans. We also need to create a welcoming and supportive culture to keep them in the trade and in the IBEW for the long run.

Our Veterans Committee is focused on helping locals do just that, developing resources they can use to open opportunities for veterans across the IBEW. My goal is to double the number of locals with active veterans committees. And these groups are not just open to veterans. I encourage anyone who wants to support our efforts to join.

Every local union needs to make a place for veterans. It is not just one of the best ways to do right by them. It is essential if we are going to meet the increasing demand for skilled electrical workers and build a bigger and stronger IBEW.

Happy Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, brothers and sisters. Now let's get out there and put in the work to truly honor our two nations' service members. They deserve what we have, and we have the opportunity to give it to them.


Also: Noble: Give Thanks and Give Back Read Noble's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President