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Helmets to Hardhats provides training, job placement for military veterans

Helmets to Hardhats participant Geovanny Bautista, who served

Helmets to Hardhats participant Geovanny Bautista, who served as a Marine sergeant in Afghanistan, is now in an apprentice program for the Steamfitters Local 638 based in Long Island City. Photo Credit: Geovanny Bautista

During his eight years with the U.S. Marines, Geovanny Bautista trained as a sniper, learned how to survive in the jungles of Okinawa and served in Afghanistan.

But it was a welding course at Camp Lejeune that opened the door to his future job as a steamfitter.

The 27-year-old Queens native is part of a five-year apprenticeship program with Steamfitters Local 638. While training at the union’s Long Island City facility, Bautista is also working on heating and cooling systems and oil lines in New York City schools.

“I’ve always had an interest in the trades, my dad is a Local 3 electrician,” said Bautista, who grew up in East Elmhurst and now lives in New Jersey with his wife and year-old son. “Everything is new but I have a good foreman and good partners. They are taking me under their wing and showing me everything.”

Bautista was connected with Local 638 as part of the Helmets to Hardhats program that helps veterans find jobs in the construction industry.

Local 638 officials said about 10 percent of every class is reserved for veterans. Currently 40 of the 363 apprentices came through the Helmets to Hardhats program.

“We deeply appreciate the commitment and sacrifice these men and women made serving our country and we believe it’s important to give back by providing skilled training and a quality career,” said Robert Bartels Jr. Steamfitters Local 638 Business Agent At Large. “As a steamfitter, they have camaraderie that most veterans lack in the civilian world, as well as safe working conditions, financial security and health benefits to provide for their family.”

Bautista said that spirit of teamwork helps with the transition from military to civilian life.

The coveted apprenticeship program is funded by the union and the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. It draws scores of hopefuls lured by the promise of a job with good pay and benefits.

“I just saw one of my brothers from the Marine Corps and he is thinking of doing the same thing after what he heard from me about this program,” Bautista said. “Everyone really wants to help you.”

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