Governor Pat Quinn walks with RLC President Charley D. Holstein into a press conference for the Helmets to Hardhats program at RLC. Launched in 2003, Helmets to Hardhats is a national initiative which connects National Guard, Reserve and transitioning active-duty military service members with high-quality construction industry training and employment opportunities. CLICK HERE for a larger photo.
Governor Pat Quinn talks about the Helmets to Hardhats program with Rend Lake College President Charley D. Holstein inside the welding lab at the college. Most of the governor's visit was spent in the lab, meeting the local veterans who are taking part in the program. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
Flanked by; FROM LEFT, state Senator Gary Forby, Illinois Representative John Bradley and Rend Lake College President Charley D. Holstein; Governor Pat Quinn shakes the hand of a U.S. veteran who is training in the Helmets to Hardhats program at RLC. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – Governor Pat Quinn’s visit to the Helmets to Hardhats program at Rend Lake College today came with a promise to do more for the program and spin its model into new initiatives across Illinois.
A brief press conference preceded the governor’s tour of RLC’s welding lab where he met veterans in the Helmets to Hardhats program.
“I really want to thank Rend Lake College, [RLC President Charley Holstein], all of the staff and everyone here who is committed to learning and education,” Quinn said. “This is a community college and ... I really believe in the mission of community colleges. I’m going to take a look at the whole program that’s been put together here at Rend Lake College. ... We’ve been able to do a real good job with our Helmets to Hardhats program all over our state. And we’ve got to double and redouble our efforts.”
Helmets to Hardhats is a national initiative which connects National Guard, Reserve and transitioning active-duty military service members with high-quality construction industry training and employment opportunities. The program, administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment, seeks to ease the challenging transition to civilian life for service members and their families.
“As lieutenant governor and now governor, I’ve worked with many, many different unions and locals, and members of unions to make sure that the Helmets to Hardhats program is strong in ... Illinois,” Quinn said. “It’s real strong right here in Southern Illinois.”
RLC President Charley D. Holstein thanked Governor Quinn, Illinois Senator Gary Forby, State Representative John Bradley, Southern Illinois Building Trades representative Tom Caliper, and guests for coming to the college to show their support for Helmets to Hardhats. The program’s mission is one Holstein takes personally.
“It’s a great program,” he said. “As a retired veteran myself, it’s something that is close to my heart. It’s a program that helps us get these servicemen and women back into the community after they’ve gone off and served our country and done some very ... hard and dangerous things. Often times, the skills they’ve learned in the military, some are transferable, but some of them really are not. So, having programs like this, where we can accelerate them back into the workforce, is a great opportunity for them.”
Quinn said 3,200 Illinois National Guard members were mobilized to Afghanistan last year – the largest deployment since World War II.
“It’s been a tough summer and a tough year for our state of Illinois. In just two weeks, we lost seven soldiers in Afghanistan and last night we lost two more. It is important we pause every day and thank God that we have such brave soldiers that give their last full measure of devotion to our country, to our democracy.”
“I appreciate everybody coming out today and thinking about our service people,” Sen. Forby said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be living today. We wouldn’t be living our lifestyle the way we’re living today.”
Rep. Bradley said, “This is ... common sense for our government to take folks that have given so much to our country and to provide them direct opportunity for employment here in Southern Illinois. ...Helmets to Hardhats. What a wonderful program and what a wonderful thing to be a part of and I’m just honored and humbled to be a part of it.”
The Pipefitters Local 551 of West Frankfort and the Pipefitters Local 651 of Centralia are involved in RLC’s program. Launched in 2003, Helmets to Hardhats is cosponsored by all 15 building and construction trades organizations and their employer associations, together representing around 82,000 contractors, according to a press release from Gov. Quinn’s office. There are currently 157,755 Helmets to Hardhats candidates registered, all of whom have access to the program’s website, which currently lists more than 80,000 careers for member access, the release states.
A dozen veterans, all from the local area, are currently in the first weeks of a 16 week program at RLC. They train four days a week, 10 hours a day. After successfully completing the tests, they will start their second-year apprenticeships at different local unions throughout the area for around $20 an hour, according to Caliper. He said he immediately thought of Helmets to Hardhats when his friend, RLC Welding Professor Dave Smith, told him there was money left over from a previous welder training program the college was involved with.
The veterans in the program at RLC include Gabriel Atkins of Herrin, William Attig of Desoto, Bobby Donoho of Salem, Jason Haase of Pocahontas, Jan Segatto of West Frankfort, Neil Wallace of Royalton, Josh Eversgard of Germantown, Paul Kuper of Breese and Tyson Keller, Greg McClintok, Grant Montgomery and Jordan Montgomery, all of Benton.
“They’ve got some good stories, real stories to tell,” Caliper said of the veterans in the program. “They’ve had some hard times ... since they’ve been back. It’s a feel-good program ... that my international is very big into. They are training people all over the country for this program. They’re even going onto Marine bases and Army bases and actually training on site, so it was a natural with the United Association. I contacted the Governor’s Office because I knew how long ... [Quinn’s] greatest cause has been helping veterans.” “They fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Quinn said. “They should not have to fight for a job in Illinois. It is our duty on the home front to take good care of those who have borne the battle. And that’s really the heart of Helmets to Hardhats.”