‘Helmets to Hardhats’ bill signed

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a program to help out-of-work former military service members find jobs in the construction industry.

A2014 will require the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to establish a  “Helmets to Hardhats” pilot program to help New Jersey military personnel and veterans acquire highway construction jobs.

The authority will be required to guarantee that from 5 to 20 percent of the projected labor hours on any highway project are awarded to contractors who employ workers from an apprenticeable trade participating in the pilot program.

The pilot program will run for 18 months, during which the Turnpike Authority will evaluate what impact the program had on jobs and on the cost of highway construction projects.

Christie initially conditionally vetoed the bill because it didn’t have benchmarks laid out. Now, it does.

The law also requires that these workers be paid the prevailing wage during their employment.

The signing of the bill, which had broad bipartisan support, was lauded.

“Young men and women are going to war, serving their country, and coming home to a civilian life without a job,” sponsor Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7) said in a statement. “With post-9/11 veteran unemployment numbers still hovering near 10 percent, we owe these fine men and women more than just a handshake and a welcome home, we owe them an opportunity to gain employment.”

Deputy Republican Leader John Amodeo, who is a retired licensed crane operator and a member of Operating Engineers Local 825, and a primary sponsor, said, “This important law now provides a road to employment for those who have served our country with honor. Helping our veterans return to civilian life by giving them a chance to learn a trade or use their administrative expertise benefits them, the Turnpike Authority and our citizens. The best way to express our thanks to these patriots is to offer them a chance to prove themselves and this pilot program opens the door of opportunity.”

‘Helmets to Hardhats’ bill signed