Singleton, Giblin, Benson & Quijano 'Helmets to Hardhats' Bill Establishing Pilot Program Now Law
Will Help Connect Former Military Personnel with Construction Jobs;Pilot Program Limits Scope to Turnpike Authority Highway Projects
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Thomas Giblin, Daniel Benson and Annette Quijano that would help out-of-work former military personnel find jobs in the construction industry has been signed into law.
"Young men and women are going to war, serving their country, and coming home to a civilian life without a job," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "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."
"Making a successful transition from military life back into the civilian workforce can be difficult in the best of economic times," said Giblin (D-Essex), a former Air National Guard member. "For the current crop of vets, coming home to 10 percent unemployment may seem daunting or overwhelming, especially if it seems like meaningful help is unavailable."
The law (A-2014) 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.
Under the law, the Turnpike Authority will be required to guarantee that at least five percent and not more than 20 percent of the projected labor hours on any highway project are awarded to contractors who employ workers from an apprenticable trade participating in the pilot program, as certified by the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council. The law also requires that these workers be paid the prevailing wage during their employment.
"Returning vets - many of whom have acquired specialized, transferable skills during their military service - aren't looking for a handout or a free ride," said Benson (D-Mercer). "At the end of the day, they're just looking for honest work and a livable wage. And this law presents an opportunity to give them both, as a way of saying thank you for their service."
"Our veterans have endured their share of challenges; trying to find a job should not be one of them," said Quijano (D-Union). "We owe it to them to make the employment process as simple and straightforward as possible, so that they can comfortably transition to the next chapter in their lives."
The pilot program will run for 18 months, during which the Turnpike Authority will evaluate: what impact, if any, the program had on providing former military personnel with jobs; and what impact the program had on the cost of highway construction projects.
The Turnpike Authority will be required to submit their findings in reports to both the governor and the Legislature within 24 months after the law's effective date.