Current Events

Title:Program builds bridge to construction trades for service members leaving the military

Author:COURTNEY MABEUS

Date:August 2019

Source:Stars and Stripes - Reprinted with Permission - ©2019 All rights reserved

Volume:Volume 3 Issue 157

NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Smith spent much of his career working as a sonar technician on submarines.

On a recent morning, Smith worked above sea level in a warm warehouse miles from the waterfront. There, he and several other sailors used string to help outline the frame of a building they'll construct during the next several weeks.

They were also building new skills as they plan for careers outside the military.

The HBI Military and Veterans Program launched in 2012 at Fort Stewart in Georgia and has expanded to seven locations, including Norfolk in May. HBI — which stands for Home Builders Institute — is part of SkillBridge, a Department of Defense initiative that's training service members for the civilian workforce by linking them with industry, apprenticeships or internships at no cost to the individual.

Participants spend 12 weeks learning carpentry, including framing, flooring and roofing. They earn professional certifications and get support finding jobs. An electrical program will be added next year.

In Norfolk, HBI expects to graduate 56 people this year and twice as many next year.

More than 21,000 Virginia-based service members are projected to separate from the military in fiscal 2019, according to the SkillBridge website. That includes more than 13,000 based in Hampton Roads.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelsey Peery spent seven years in the Navy and worked as a mechanic. She is among Norfolk's first group of students, who will graduate in August. After she leaves the service in September, she hopes to join her husband in Italy, where he is stationed with the Navy, and find a job as a contractor or work in maintenance on base.

"I always knew that I was a hands-on person," she said. "I didn't want to stay behind a desk."

For additional information about SkillBridge programs, including those offered in Hampton Roads, visit: dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov

©2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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