Nov 11, 2019
This Remembrance Day, I want to take a moment to thank all those who have served and continue to serve our nation – those who sacrifice plenty and ask for little in return so we can live in the best country on earth.
In every city throughout Canada, all too many veterans returning from military service are left coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and grappling with the reality of how to transition to civilian life. Many struggle to meet their basic needs and are burdened with extensive delays waiting to receive the benefits they are entitled to. They’re often left wondering what they should do with the rest of their life and sadly, many contemplate suicide. According to the 2018 Veteran Suicide Mortality Study (VSMS), male veteran suicide rates were the highest in the first decade after release and, female veteran suicide rates were highest in the second decade after release.
Every Remembrance Day, we talk about the tremendous amount of gratitude we owe our veterans and how we must keep our promise and give them the recognition they deserve. While all this is good, what is often overlooked is what we can do to help them successfully reintegrate into civilian life. Providing veterans with training that builds upon their military skills and sets them on the path to sustainable employment post separation from service, are crucial aspects to dignified civilian transition.
According to Veteran Affairs, there are nearly 650,000 veterans in Canada today and while that number includes many that have since retired, 40 per cent are below the age of 34. Statistics also demonstrate that newly released veterans would have spent an average of 15 years of service and, during that time, the military would have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours training them. Upon release, they’re highly skilled men and women whose experience, discipline, leadership and problem-solving abilities make them exceptional assets to any organization.
Recognizing our collective responsibility to give back to those who’ve served, Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) started nearly six years ago, with a focus on providing apprenticeship opportunities that lead to journeyperson qualification for anyone currently serving or retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, both Regular or Reservists, as well as spouses and their children between the ages of 18 and 25. Through H2H’s partnership with our 14 trade unions, 175 established training centres, and 292 approved employers, H2H has been able to place over 800 veterans into apprenticeships in an industry that represents a variation of over 60 occupations. None of this would have been possible without the generous support many of you have given to H2H by working with them to include veterans in your recruitment and intake process, by getting veterans to work or supporting H2H financially. While no small feat, we mustn’t rest on our accomplishments. There’s still lots of work to do, with over 300 veterans currently seeking placements.
This November 11th, as we reflect on all that our veterans have done for us, let us recommit ourselves and work harder to ensure that we support them long after they rejoin civilian life. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to reach out to H2H to learn how you can support the transformative work that they do. Lest we forget.