Nathaniel James is a former Marine and a third-year elevator mechanic apprentice with TK Elevator at the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 10. He came to the elevator trade through the partnership between the IUEC and the Helmets to Hardhats program, which connects transitioning military service members with quality career training and employment opportunities within the construction industry.
A Stable Career Path
Nathaniel served in the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2012 as a crash-fire rescue operator, and after completing his military service, he worked for seven years as an ironworker. Friends from other building trades introduced him to IUEC Local 10 and told him about the elevator trade and the Helmets to Hardhats program. From there, Nathaniel was able to connect with an Area Coordinator from the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) – the conveyance industry’s most comprehensive USDOL-registered apprenticeship training program – who gave him an understanding of the Helmets to Hardhats program and its benefits, facilitating his transition from an ironworker to an apprentice elevator mechanic.
Today, Nathaniel is a part of the modernization department at TK Elevator, where he works on fabricating and retrofitting elevator systems. His role involves dismantling old systems and rebuilding new ones from scratch. The skills he acquired throughout his military career and his time as an ironworker have been instrumental in helping him excel in his role, allowing him to make a smooth transition to a career in the civilian sector.
As an IUEC elevator apprentice coming into the trade, Nathaniel was enrolled in the industry’s four-plus year USDOL-Registered Apprenticeship program at the time he started working in the field. Through classroom courses, hands-on experiential learning, and online virtual simulations, the NEIEP curriculum provides apprentices like Nathaniel with the theoretical foundations and practical skills they need to become the most highly-skilled elevator constructors in the conveyance world. Along with what he’s learning in the classroom, Nathaniel is working under the supervision of an experienced IUEC mechanic. Once he completes his classroom courses, logs all of his required on-the-job learning hours, and passes NEIEP’s rigorous capstone Mechanic Exam, he’ll advance to mechanic status. As a third-year apprentice, he still has some time to go – but his background as both an ironworker and a crash-fire rescue operator in the Marine Corps has given his career an advantageous start.
Through this ongoing partnership with Helmets to Hardhats, the IUEC is able to provide veterans a stable career path with great benefits and instill in them a sense of accomplishment Nathaniel describes as akin to what he felt during his military service. Just as he once protected the citizens of his nation, he now ensures their safe and efficient vertical transportation in city buildings.
It’s About Building Legacies
Nathaniel can point to almost any building in the city and say he’s worked on it, touched it, and left a tangible imprint of his hard work. This sense of contribution and legacy, of knowing he played a part in constructing the cityscape, is invaluable.
Through this partnership, the IUEC and Helmets to Hardhats have helped Nathaniel and many other individuals with military backgrounds transition into new careers in the building trades. It’s not just the elevator industry – bricklayers, boilermakers, carpenters, electrical workers, insulators, ironworkers, laborers, millwrights, operating engineers, painters and finishers, plasterers and cement masons, plumbers and pipefitters, roofers, sheet metal workers, teamsters, and construction managers – all of these trades have built similar partnerships with Helmets to Hardhats today. What’s the advantage for them to reach out to a program like this and bring more veterans into their workforce? It’s because individuals who have served in the country’s armed forces bring unique skills, perspectives, and a sense of duty that translates into their trade work. While the IUEC – Helmets to Hardhats collaboration offers veterans meaningful careers, at the same time, it enriches the elevator construction industry with their expertise and commitment.
Nathaniel James’ journey from Marine to ironworker to IUEC elevator constructor apprentice underscores the valuable opportunities provided by the Helmets to Hardhats program. It’s a testament to the power of industry-military partnerships in facilitating smooth transitions into civilian life and pathways to rewarding careers for service members. The IUEC’s partnership with Helmets to Hardhats is not just about job creation, but about building legacies.
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