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Industry Effort to Bring Veterans into the Coatings Industry

Industry Effort to bring Veterans into the Coatings Industry
Clint Nold, Work Force Development Manager

Long Painting Company made a calculated decision to hire a former active duty Army officer to be the Work Force Development Manager. Calculated, because I do not have any previous experience in the coatings industry, but I am Army trained in building workforce capacity. Typically, in the coatings industry, the duty of finding and developing painters is done on a part-time basis, by the general superintendents. In essence, the new position at Long Painting is a dedicated human resource position commonly found in other organizations, such as Starbucks, REI, and Amazon.

Traditionally, manpower has come from the union hall, but the nationwide decline in skilled labor has limited capacity to respond and grow. Advertising, field recruiting, and referrals all help supplement manning, but are limited by volume and unknown quality. The existing workforce is aging, but possesses significant knowledge that needs to be transferred to the next generation. However, there are significant challenges for the current generation when interacting with millennials.

The construction industry, whether we care to admit it, is a tough, Darwinist environment. A new painter starts out low on the pecking order, and earns his/her way to the top through training, perseverance, and tenacity. The work force is different now than it was for older generations, which means there is an adjustment period when working with younger and older people.

The US military is winding down from a decade of war and with it, many service members are available for hiring. Typically, these transitioning veterans are disciplined, tough, team-oriented, flexible, and have some degree of leadership skills. Who would not want this in their company and the construction industry?

How do we tap into this potential? Fortunately, there are many components in place to facilitate a reliable pipeline: the source of talent, JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McCord) transition center; the local painter’s union and training center; PAT-VP (International Union Painters Allied Trades Veteran’s Program); and job opportunities represented by contractors.

How does it all work together? First, I team up with PAT-VP’s recruiter and instructor, Mr. Ken Seal. Ken is boots on ground actively recruiting the JBLM transition center, which on average, out-processes up to 400 veterans a month. Since Ken knows that I just went through the JBLM transition center as a Veteran and am now in position to offer jobs, he will refer Veterans with questions to me and have me speak during the classes. This creates more genuine interest into an already exciting career field.

Secondly, the hands-on training portion of what Ken does is held at FTINW, (Finishing Trades Institute Northwest), where the union provided instructors help train the Veterans, along with Ken and his international counterparts. This is key as it sends the message to Veterans that the union part of the equation is about training veterans for skilled employment. Military veterans are naturally mission-focused and will do whatever training it takes to be prepared to accomplish the mission. In addition to the training, sell the union as a nationwide networking opportunity. Veterans like to know they are part of an organization that can link them with multiple contractors, nation-wide.

Third, and perhaps the most important, are the contractors with job opportunities. The above effort only goes so far, if contractors are not involved in the process sustainability is unlikely. Year to date, Long Painting Company has hired nine former service members.

Our superintendents and foremen frequently comment on the Veteran’s discipline, hustle, and reliability. Additionally, these veterans come with tremendous soft skills, as many of them were performing in leadership roles while enlisted similar to that of our foremen and superintendents. Also, some of these military members had careers in the service, performing human resource functions, maintenance, and recruiting. For example, one of our new painters is a former Army generator mechanic that also was trained to be a field recruiter. Upside, versatility, and options in one package, which is indicative of many of these Veterans hired on as painters.

Ultimately, the hiring of Veterans is a joint, industry-wide effort that benefits all involved. Veterans get a job that they enjoy with potential to move up, union membership is increased, and contractors get young, motivated individuals with upside. It is not often one can say that everybody wins but this truly is, one of those rare situations.