NJ Looks to Recruit Veterans for Turnpike Construction

Joe Weinlick
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Veterans of the armed forces have many valuable skills, which is why New Jersey is looking to recruit veterans to work on New Jersey Turnpike projects. Members of the military often have the discipline and flexibility required to handle tough tasks and see projects through to completion. Senators Bob Gordon and Jim Whelan even sponsored a bill to establish a pilot program that would welcome returning veterans back to New Jersey and give them meaningful opportunities to help them make the transition back to civilian life.

Gordon and Whelan's bill received final approval in March 2013. The bill requires the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to award 5 percent of its projected labor hours for each highway project to veterans who are registered members of the Helmets to Hardhats program, a national program that connects veterans with careers in construction and other trades. After the bill was approved, Senator Gordon said returning veterans have the skills and training needed to work on New Jersey Turnpike projects. He also said the Helmets to Hardhats program has a good track record for helping service members adjust to civilian life after serving in the military.

Due to the nature of the work, there are strict requirements for veterans interested in entering the Helmets to Hardhats program. Participants must demonstrate interest in the construction industry; remain drug-free for the duration of their participation in the program; and place at a certain level in WorkKeys testing, an assessment system that aids employers in hiring and training the best employees. The vets must also have access to reliable transportation while they are in the program. The Whelan-Gordon bill allows for an eighteen-month pilot study, after which the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will evaluate the program's impact on the cost of its projects.

Many employers want to recruit veterans because vets tend to have intangible assets that entry-level civilian workers may lack. These assets include excellent interpersonal communication skills and the ability to see projects through to completion. Veterans' ability to follow directions and adhere to company policies makes them valuable assets to their employers. There are a number of New Jersey Turnpike construction projects currently taking place all over the state. In Hudson County, for example, the Turnpike Authority is expanding Exit 14A. This project and others like it will give veterans many opportunities to use their skills and earn a living.

Many veterans have the skills needed to succeed in the construction industry. Employers benefit from hiring these vet because they have experience in working with complex projects and cooperating with others to reach goals. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is likely to see many benefits from the eighteen-month Helmets to Hardhats program, which could create more opportunities for veterans to work on turnpike projects in the future.



(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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