Skilled to Work: Veterans use service experience to transition into the skilled trades

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2018, 18.1 percent of all veterans were working in either construction or manufacturing.

Posted: Mar 28, 2019 2:14 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2019 9:03 AM

Many of the women and men don’t decide to stop working once they take off the uniform for the last time. Many of them eventually decide to trade their fatigues for business attire.

Former Army combat medic John Rehfeld chose a polo and jeans.

Dozens of veterans, transitioning military members and spouses turned out to find jobs at the Warriors to the Workforce job fair on March 27, 2019. Dozens of veterans, transitioning military members and spouses turned out to find jobs at the Warriors to the Workforce job fair on March 27, 2019.

“You spend months training to become a soldier, learning to be this thing that they need you to be. They break you down and build you back up and there’s nothing like that for getting out,” said Rehfeld.

He spent four years in the Army. Rehfeld deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Wild Boars.” He was in the east Baghdad area from November 2007 to January 2009.

After leaving the Army, he spent a year just with his kids and tried his hand at commercial diving for a couple of years before making his way to Huntsville and trying college. He said it didn’t really pan out.

“Wasn't really sure what goal I was working towards and kinda flailed for a little while, honestly. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the rest of my life,” said Rehfeld.

With some help from the Huntsville-based organization Still Serving Veterans, Rehfeld steered toward the construction field and became an engineering technician with the firm S&ME.

And he is far from the only one to make such a move. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, 6.4 percent of all veterans in the United States worked in construction and 11.7 of them turned to manufacturing.

Rehfeld believes those numbers are driven in part because these fields provide veterans with a tangible mission.

“Whether it’s building a building, whether it’s laying down pavement for a parking lot, there’s always an end goal. And everybody knows their part. Everybody's doing something specific to advance towards that goal and that’s very similar to the military,” said Rehfeld.

An annual list of top 25 hot jobs for veterans published by the group Military Friendly also found that for last year, “construction supervisor” ranked number 18 on its list. Other skilled trades included “electrician” at 13, “welder” at 19 and “aircraft technician” at 21.

Ron Husa was a CH-47 Chinook repairer who started in the Army back in 2003. He left the service in 2014 and brought his know how to defense contractor, Y-Tech Services, in Dothan before moving to Huntsville to work at Yulista earlier this month.

“Extremely seamless. It was like being in the military, but I wasn’t. A lot of the employees within Yulista are prior service and it’s great. It's kind of like being with your brothers,” said Husa.

In fact, while at Y-Tech, he ran into a very familiar face.

“One of the employees out at Y-Tech Services was prior service with me. We actually almost died together on a Chinook helicopter. We had an RPG fired at us. So when I came to work and I saw that he was working there, it was like being back with one of the guys in the military,” said Husa.

At Wednesday’s Warriors to the Workforce job fair, Air Force Master Sergeant Geoffrey Alexander hoped his 24 years of service and experience in aircraft maintenance would land him his ideal job.

“I think I’m kind of done with the “turning wrenches” part, but definitely some type of management, I think I would enjoy,” Alexander said.

Meanwhile, Rehfeld said the trades are something any veteran leaving the service should highly consider.

“There's good money in the trades and, you know, it provides you an opportunity that you may not otherwise find in such a short period of time,” Rehfeld said.

To learn more about local options for veterans looking for work, click here.

Huntsville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Florence
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 52°
Fayetteville
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 48°
Decatur
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
50° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 50°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136549

Reported Deaths: 2378
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19833350
Mobile13471292
Montgomery8865184
Tuscaloosa8744118
Madison797878
Shelby604349
Lee594560
Baldwin558850
Marshall396743
Calhoun354844
Etowah354045
Morgan332728
Houston293521
Elmore269148
DeKalb243521
St. Clair234036
Walker233084
Talladega217729
Limestone213520
Cullman191120
Dallas179326
Franklin179029
Autauga178525
Russell17653
Lauderdale174033
Colbert167526
Blount161815
Escambia161424
Chilton159330
Jackson158911
Covington140327
Dale139944
Coffee13656
Pike120510
Chambers117242
Tallapoosa116685
Clarke110416
Marion97129
Butler91439
Barbour8867
Winston74512
Marengo72620
Pickens66814
Randolph66013
Bibb65710
Lowndes65727
Hale64928
Geneva6384
Lawrence62823
Cherokee61413
Bullock60714
Clay5928
Monroe5908
Washington56113
Crenshaw54232
Perry5426
Conecuh53711
Wilcox53211
Henry5085
Macon48318
Fayette4678
Sumter43819
Cleburne3895
Lamar3772
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 193732

Reported Deaths: 2389
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby31034460
Davidson26685307
Hamilton956495
Knox955080
Rutherford940890
Williamson534136
Sumner488398
Wilson353845
Putnam335541
Montgomery312344
Unassigned30476
Out of TN299727
Bradley296717
Madison294364
Sevier264715
Blount254824
Maury242024
Washington233736
Robertson223135
Sullivan222033
Hamblen194326
Tipton183619
Gibson171323
Trousdale16687
Hardeman158326
Wayne15025
Dyer140314
Bedford137017
Dickson127715
Coffee125513
Cumberland121718
Weakley121219
Fayette120619
Anderson120213
Obion120011
Henderson119124
Loudon11906
Carter117928
Greene116644
McMinn115025
Jefferson113414
Warren10787
Lawrence107713
Macon106821
Monroe105818
Hardin105216
Lauderdale99516
Haywood99221
Franklin98910
Lake9252
McNairy91818
Roane9096
Carroll90520
Bledsoe8624
Rhea85013
White8499
Hawkins82318
Cheatham81910
Marshall7805
Overton7666
Cocke75310
Smith73411
Johnson7292
Chester64610
Giles63717
Henry6289
Lincoln6281
Hickman5998
DeKalb57214
Crockett54419
Marion5388
Decatur5317
Fentress5273
Campbell4564
Claiborne4425
Polk40610
Grainger3863
Union3712
Benton3399
Jackson3325
Morgan3213
Grundy3126
Cannon2950
Unicoi2881
Humphreys2633
Sequatchie2421
Clay2345
Houston2283
Meigs2283
Stewart2192
Scott2182
Lewis2071
Moore1801
Van Buren1660
Perry1530
Pickett1232
Hancock1073

Community Events