New York, NY – Helmets to Hardhats is welcoming David Porter as the group’s new executive director.
Helmets to Hardhats is a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry. The program is designed to help military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry.
Porter comes to Helmets to Hardhats from the United Association’s Veterans in Piping program (UA-VIP), where he was Lead Instructor aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. He has over a decade of experience in training, management, human resources, marketing and recruitment. He has worked extensively in building trades’ training and veteran recruitment including developing a national veteran apprenticeship training course for instructor programs.
His own background in the trades was as a pipe-fitter, in which field he worked for thirteen years. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, his apprenticeship and the majority of his work was with UA Local 58 in Colorado Springs. He then transferred to UA Local 421 in North Carolina. He also worked as a foreman.
LaborPress sat down with Porter to learn more about his new leadership role, current challenges, the people he serves, and what he sees for the future.
LP: What does it mean to you personally to lead Helmets to Hardhats?
DP: It’s an amazing opportunity as I’ve been working training and transitioning military for the last five years, and before that was a Training Coordinator for Local 58. I noticed then the value of the veterans we had coming in to the local there and saw the perfect win-win scenario for veterans and their families and also for the construction trade. And so being able to do the same type of work on a larger scale is a great opportunity – working with veterans is very rewarding. There’s also something I’m passionate about, and that is getting the word out that there needs to be a paradigm shift from the perception that construction is something you do because you couldn’t go to college or get in a cubicle. I went in to my apprenticeship in my late 20’s to early 30’s. I had gone to college. There’s a stigma. It’s just not true. A lot of people are making good money and great benefits. People have no idea of the real career opportunities. It needs to be known. Also – a three to five-year apprenticeship and training on the job plus supplemental classroom training is on a par with a Bachelor’s Degree.
LP: What is it like working with the veterans to help them with their new careers?
DP: I have a lot of family and friends in the military. I have a military spouse. I’m aware of the sacrifices. It’s not just individuals [these careers are benefitting] also their families. They are a great fit – they have the intangibles that trade and contractors are looking for in workers – discipline, work ethic, leadership skills. They can take orders and be task oriented. Those are all qualities that transition well into construction. Working in harsh environments – cold, heat, getting dirty. They make good pay, get great benefits, and they do work hard.
LP: What are some challenges you see going ahead?
DP: Currently the biggest challenge is what the new normal will be coming out of the coronavirus situation. I was hired just as it was unfolding. It’s all a learning experience currently. We’re still operating, obviously on a different scale. There are areas in the country where construction is an essential industry so it slowed down but never stopped, so it didn’t have nearly the impact other industries did. It’s something we are grateful for. We continue to move forward.
LP: What do you see for Helmets to Hardhats in the future?
DP: We would love to expand if we have the funds to do so. As for our actual plans, there are no specifics due to our [coronavirus] current situation. There are so many unknowns. Let’s maintain what we have and keep doing the same work in the environment in which we are working.
Porter currently resides in North Carolina with his wife Shannon and their two children. He is working remotely due to coronavirus but will relocate to Washington, D.C. for his position once the coronavirus situation has eased.