Life after the Military
Jan 15, 2013

Photo: CPL Kelly Low

Helmets to Hardhats Canada (H2H) is designed to provide opportunities in Canada for anyone who has served (or is currently serving and looking to transition to a civilian career) in either the Regular or Reserve Force Components of the Canadian Forces. Similar to its sister organization in the Unites States, the program offers required apprenticeship training to achieve journeyperson status in any of the applicable trades within the building and construction industry.

Regardless of an individual’s military occupation, they may chose to pursue any of the 14 applicable trade fields, with full apprenticeship training being provided as required. A full apprenticeship program can be 3-4 years long, much of which will be on job training (OJT), with anywhere from 8-20 weeks of classroom instruction provided during this period. However, depending on existing qualifications and experience, the apprenticeship training process may be shortened or even bypassed to enable a fast-tracked achievement of journeyperson status.

Photo: MCPL Matthew McGregor

Apprentices are paid during their OJT, but at a reduced rate from what they will earn as a qualified journeyperson. Apprenticeship training is offered across Canada to enable easier access. For a number of trades, the journeyperson is given “Red Seal” certification which permits them to work in any Province or Territory across Canada.

The building and construction industry in Canada is an economic growth leader. With changing demographics in Canada, influenced in part by an aging work force and relatively low birth rate, there is an increasing demand for skilled labour across the nation. This demand is not limited to just the trades themselves, but also the leadership positions (foreman, general foreman, site manager, etc.) and specialty fields (project management, engineering, logistics, etc.) that are integral to the building and construction industry.

Photo: CPL Chris Ringius

The building trades unions and many employers across the nation, who are stakeholders in supporting the H2H program in Canada, recognize the valuable contribution that members of Canadian Forces (past and present) have made to our country – as well as the outstanding qualities and experience that they offer, such as inter-personal skills, leadership abilities, professionalism, dedication, and a desire to pursue continuous individual improvement. Furthermore, unions and stakeholder employers are ­motivated to accommodate members of the Canadian Forces (past and present) who may have physical and/or mental challenges, ­recognizing that these same individuals offer many other great qualities and abilities.

H2H works closely with the Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada to assist interested individuals in making the transition into this exciting new career opportunity. As such, H2H will work closely with the Personnel Selection (BPSO) network to provide information on the program, including through the Secondary Career Assistance Network (SCAN) seminars.

Gregory C.P. Matte is the executive director of Helmets to Hardhats, a Not-for-Profit organization. Call 613-238-2301 or visit for more information. For a video, visit

© FrontLine Defence 2013