RALEIGH, N.C. -- A North Carolina-based company with offices in the Piedmont Triad has launched a program aimed at hiring veterans and retaining them for full-time employment.
Last fall, the Department of Labor tapped Baker Roofing to start a veterans apprenticeship program. The three-year program offers salaries to veterans while providing hands-on training.
Vets can use GI Bill benefits to move to N.C. in order to train in the company's Raleigh headquarters. At the end of the program, the company hopes to retain the veterans for full-time employment in one of their many locations across the Southeast.
"It's hard, especially when you come from a combat MOS (mode of service)," said Patrick Poierier, who is among the first class of trainees following his service as an Army combat engineer. "It doesn't really link to anything in the real world. This program's great."
Poierier recently moved to Raleigh from Upstate New York so he could enroll in the program. He says he hopes to run his own business eventually, but in the meantime he can't pass up what the program is offering.
"We can actually make an income while we're learning -- so it's pretty nice," Poierier said.
Amid double-digit unemployment for veterans who served after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Baker apprentices say they're grateful for a shot at employment.
"It's kind of hard switching from military lifestyle to civilian lifestyle," said Nate Tateman, a former Marine combat engineer from Mount Airy. "It's a difficult process."
After getting out of the military in 2010, Tateman says he headed home to study carpentry at Surry County Community College. However, he says it was tough finding full-time work.
"When you first get out it's exciting and then you realize it's a lot different," Tateman said. "You start wanting to back in, and start panicking a little bit. Some do end up going back in. Some have trouble getting jobs and some do make it."
"It's a big relief to have a good, full-time job," he added.
For Baker Roofing, the company's hope is to build its workforce through the program with reliable, hard-working men and women.
"We believe that they bring skills to the table that you can't necessarily train in a normal workforce," said Brendan Hale, the company's director of career development. "We see our next generation of leaders coming up through apprenticeship."
For more information on the company's veteran apprenticeship program, visit bakersince1915.com.