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Joe Maloney retires from Helmets to Hardhats

The program is a brilliant initiative that supports our military veterans for their service to their respective countries.

Arnie Stadnick, IVP-Canada

Mike Humphries, a union veteran liaison at left with Joe Maloney, center, talks with H2H client Max, who is now a union carpenter.

Lifelong Boilermaker and former IVP-Canada, Joe Maloney, has had a storied career in the trades. Starting at age 17, he joined Local 128 (Toronto, Ontario), and his career progressed from field work to leadership in the building trades. Maloney recently retired as executive director at Helmets to Hardhats. The impact he’s had advocating for the trades and for veterans will last for generations.

While working as secretary-treasurer for what’s now NABTU—or North America’s Building Trades Unions, Maloney founded the U.S. Helmets to Hardhats program. He then launched the program in Canada.

The organization transitions military veterans into civilian jobs in the union construction trades. Engineering News-Record magazine named Maloney “2004 Man of the Year” for his work in creating this “innovative and outstanding program.” And in 2016, Maloney received the Meritorious Service Cross for his work in forming the H2H program in Canada.

His work founding H2H was a “brilliant initiative,” as IVP-Canada Arnie Stadnick says.  

“It’s an honor to be associated with a person like Joe, his tenacity and passion to launch and secure funding for a program such as H2H in the USA and Canada is nothing short of inspirational,” Stadnick says. “His support for military personnel looking to transition back into civilian life was his goal, and he wanted it to be as seamless as possible. The program is a brilliant initiative that supports our military veterans for their service to their respective countries. As the saying goes, get behind and support our troops, or try standing in front of them.”

But Maloney hasn’t let the accolades go to his head. He’s too focused on helping veterans find life after military service. “To me, that’s the rewarding part of this whole thing. You’re able to help people. When you help a vet, it gives you a very special feeling,” Maloney says.

Helping vets and finding workers during a labor shortage were the driving force behind starting H2H. As Maloney tells it, there was a severe labor shortage in 2003 at the same time the construction industry was booming. “Everyone was short of people,” he says.

That’s when he saw that around 225,000 people leave the military each year.

“And I’m like, ‘Whoa, why wouldn’t we tap into that?’”

But getting the program up and running faced obstacles. The first was that the idea was new and people were apprehensive. There was reluctance in the industry around how to finance H2H.

“And everyone knew I was a Canadian and wondered what I was doing mucking with the military,” says Maloney with a chuckle.

But as the program began, various union trades got behind it. First Ed Malloy, who was president of the building trades in New York City, supported H2H, then the president in California, then Chicago.

“Once the general presidents got behind it, it took off,” he said. “Then we got a board and it became and everyday program of the building trades.”

It was the workers themselves who helped to win over contractors and owners in the union trades. “Once they started getting a few vets in their employ, they saw the value of those individuals; they rallied around the program.”

At the program’s inception, the Clinton Administration funded it. But when the Bush Administration took the White House, the money stopped and the program scrambled to find funding. Today H2H is funded through agreements.

When Maloney retired as the Boilermakers’ IVP-Canada, he could have stopped working to enjoy his well-earned retirement. But when the executive director of Canada’s H2H program left, the organization asked him to step in for just six months to fill the gap. Those six short months turned into five years and now, Maloney is retiring for good. Even so, he still has a big heart for veterans.

“What these men and women have done for us—risking their lives for our freedoms—giving them more choices when they get home is just the right thing to do,” he says.

Maloney says that nonunion companies call H2H all the time seeking to become a part of the program. “We tell them ‘No. You don’t qualify.’ We’re not going to send a vet into a situation where they may get exploited.”

Throughout his career, Maloney has had an outsized impact on the lives of veterans and in the union construction trades. He will be missed at H2H.

"I want to express our sincerest thanks for the enormous contributions Joe has made to the Canadian labor movement,” says Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions.

“It takes true leadership and commitment to make such a profound impact on an entire industry, and his dedication to connecting veterans with opportunities in the skilled trades will leave a lasting legacy for decades to come.”

Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades

For Maloney, helping veterans is what he’ll remember most from his time serving at H2H. “One of the things that is heart wrenching to me is when a veteran says thank you,” he says. “Thank you so much. You changed my whole direction in life.”

Find out more about the life-changing organization Helmets to Hardhats.

In Canada at www.helmetstohardhats.ca

In the United States at https://helmetstohardhats.org

Helmets to Hardhats helps veterans transition back into civilian life. Here are only a few of the vets whose lives were changed through H2H.

“My experience with H2H was extremely positive. H2H genuinely helped me get good employment. Now I'll be able to provide for my family in a much better way. I'm very pleased, and I hope other Canadian Armed Forces members will take advantage of the program.”

~Peter D.

“I served six years in the infantry. Upon release I needed help with a connection and training/certification to get into the trades I wanted. Helmets to Hardhats really came through with course availability, gear and the connections into the trades who are looking for hard working, disciplined workers. Thank you Helmets to Hardhats.”

~Stephane B.

“As for my experience with H2H, I would like to say that the program has been nothing but helpful and has shown multiple opportunities within the trades and offers many courses and learning opportunities for those looking for work. Thank you greatly for your help. It has been much appreciated.”

~ Greg K.