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Veterans Graduate from Rigorous Training Program, Land Jobs

December 18, 2009

A joint venture between Seattle Local 46 and the Puget Sound JATC has turned out its first crop of graduates whose military training helped fast-track them toward careers in the electrical trade.

Eight students of the new Veterans in Construction Electrical – or VICE – program were honored in a ceremony in Renton, Wash., Nov. 9 after powering through a 12-week boot camp where they learned electrical theory, conduit bending, safety protocol and other key components of the job. Now at work as apprentices with local construction contractors, the veterans are earning as much as $36 dollars an hour in wages and benefits.

For National Guard reservist Kirk Bradshaw – a married father with seven years of active duty service – the program is nothing short of a blessing. “It feels great to be finished and on the job,” he said. His fellow graduates include Alberto Ruiz, Dan Johnson, Jenne Heric, Manuel Magdaleno, Ojay Henry, Ryan Hendrickx and Patrick O'Connor.

Bradshaw said aspects of VICE dovetailed nicely with his experiences in the service:

The program had a lot of similarities to being in the military, especially the structured atmosphere. There’s also the support, the brotherhood – you meet people you can trust and rely on. We were all counting on each other to accomplish a mission.

Speakers at the ceremony included VICE instructor and Local 46 member Joe Kraft, Ninth District Vice President Mike Mowrey and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), among others. A champion of VICE, Smith has introduced legislation that would expand the program nationally. Speaking to the graduates and program developers, he said:

What you’re doing here in many ways is better than what some of the finest educational institutions in the entire country are doing. You’re taking people in and in a fairly quick period of time for a very reasonable amount of money you’re giving them employable skills.

The brainchild of Local 46 Business Representative Brett Olson, VICE has been three years in the making. Calling it “Helmets to Hardhats on steroids,” Olson said VICE enhances that program by offering more intensive, advanced training and immediate career placement for veterans in the area. With the first crew finished, Olson is pleased with the program’s progress:

The veterans were very thankful to be placed into jobs so quickly. They all know that the economy is not where we all would like it to be, and because of this they put all of their hearts into graduating.

Click here to read more about the VICE program. To watch video of the graduation, click here.