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Why Hiring Military Veterans for Construction Jobs is Smart

Veterans often bring useful traits and skills to the table. 

When it comes to building a dream team, construction companies often seek job candidates who are hard-working, safety oriented and able to perform effectively under stressful conditions. One group of applicants tends to possess those qualities in spades: military veterans. 

“We know how to overcome adversity in the field and in construction,” said Kelly French, a talent acquisition program specialist at United Rentals and a noncommissioned officer in the Marine Corps. French has helped United Rentals recruit and hire veterans through the company’s Service to Employment Program (STEP). In the program’s six-year history, about 325 veterans have completed the 10-week training, and most have been matched with technician jobs in the United States. 

Another reason some military veterans are particularly well suited for construction work is their experience with large equipment, French said. Most are familiar with large vehicles, generators, blowers, heaters and compressors, he noted. 

When Marine veteran Billy Dee was stationed in Iraq between 2005 and 2006, he often worked on trucks that broke down, since there was a shortage of mechanics and his unit had to be self-reliant. After returning to civilian life, he got a job with United Rentals as a service technician. Part of the job involves driving to customers and repairing their equipment on site. 

“You have to be prepared for anything. It can be hazardous work, and you have to keep your head on a swivel,” said Dee. “My time in the military definitely made me a better employee today. It taught me to stay alert and aware.”

Safety is instilled in military personnel from day one, whether it’s through weekly briefings, familiarization with equipment or training, French said. 

“Companies that operate large equipment are risk-averse. They want to hire people who have situational awareness and who are safety-focused and understand the dangers.” 

Rob Kirk, who manages the Hard Hat Heroes program for the National Center for Construction Education and Research, which helps place veterans in construction jobs, believes veterans have a strong work ethic and good time management skills. “They accomplish tasks not just correctly, but on time,” he said.

He added that veterans, depending on their background, may have experience completing tasks under incredible pressure or with limited resources. “They know how to contribute to a team’s success and are used to supporting team members,” Kirk said. “When you’re talking about reaching an objective, you know how much teamwork is important.” 

Finally, female veterans know how to operate a male-dominated environment. Melissa McGregor, who worked as an Administrative Specialist in the Army Reserves helping train troops for deployment, is a national account consultant for United Rentals. 

“I learned persistence, and I learned to be strong because there’s a lot of different personalities that you deal with in our industry. Being in the military, which is a male-dominated industry, I learned to stand up and be heard.”

Emily Canal is a staff writer for Inc. Magazine and has previously written for Forbes Magazine, The New York Times and the Boston Globe. 

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