- Houston-based NextOp has recruited, trained, and placed more than 1,100 veterans into heavy industry jobs since 2015.
- NextOp can place veterans in jobs within about 25 days, and the program has a retention rate above 85 percent.
- Many veterans have the technical and soft skills that construction business owners are looking for, including understanding the chain of command, being on time, and valuing safety.
High-minded and Highly Pragmatic
Since launching in 2015, Houston-based nonprofit organization NextOp has recruited, trained and placed more than 1,100 veterans into heavy industry careers spanning energy, construction, manufacturing, and logistics.
“Veterans are not only a good cultural fit for those kinds of industry careers, but they have skills and experiences that really play well,” says NextOp Executive Director John Boerstler, who is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps himself.
“We have had success identifying mechanically-inclined and technically-oriented veterans before they transition out of the military. We’re able to pipeline them into some of our best industrial construction clients.”
From enrollment into NextOp to a veteran receiving a paycheck usually takes about 25 days, Boerstler says, and the program has a retention rate exceeding 85 percent.
NextOp mostly works with middle-enlisted veterans from all branches of the military, who Boerstler says make up a large portion of total military force transitions. They are placed in jobs ranging from vocational to professional. Every year, about 12 percent of the veterans placed in jobs are women.
Currently, NextOp works throughout Texas and Louisiana but is looking to expand into other states. The organization already has partnerships with the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) and several national construction trade associations.
FUEL chatted with NextOp’s John Boerstler in more depth about NextOp’s process for placing veterans in construction jobs.
FUEL: Why are veterans a great fit for the construction industry?
John Boerstler: They bring all the skills that construction companies want, like showing up early, staying late, and learning fast. They also get the chain of command, and they understand that everyone is a safety officer on the job site. When we’re training, the mantra is ‘safety is paramount.’ Culturally, that translates very well from military to construction.
Veterans are used to working many hours in inclement weather. They’re used to different living standards. Now, they’re just getting better compensation for it. It’s a true career progression.
FUEL: What is Next Op’s process for placing veterans in jobs?
JB: We’re very proactive. We host workshops on regional military installations in partnership with other veterans’ organizations. We want to engage those interested in the construction or heavy industry sector early on. This helps us accelerate the transition.
Then we put vets who register with us through an in-depth intake and assessment process to ensure they’re a good fit for us and we’re a good fit for them. After that, we develop them as a candidate. We dust off their resumes and clean up some of the military jargon so they’re able to speak intelligently about their experience to someone who may not have direct exposure to the military. We coach them through the interviews to help manage their expectations of civilian culture versus military culture—it’s very high-touch case management. Then we place them, significantly reducing unemployment benefit payouts. They get their paychecks and can make an impact on the community.
FUEL: Why should veterans consider a career in construction?
JB: There’s never going to be a downside to getting into construction. There are always going to be new projects, but you have to be willing to travel sometimes. I think that resonates with veterans. They’re able to get into a job where they can use their skills and experience of being resourceful and dynamic, and being able to make decisions in a safe and team-oriented environment. The military is a team sport, and being part of a team is exactly what construction is. I think that really appeals to veterans, and that’s how we get them involved and interested.
FUEL: How can construction business connect with veterans?
JB: They can get connected with us! Even though we’re only in Texas and Louisiana operationally, we have a partnership with NCCER, and we make sure that we get the name and information of any veteran coming through their job crosswalk. We reach out and find out where they want to relocate to and what they’re interested in. This way we can properly refer them to a local Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chapter or Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) chapter or employer that we work with. Many of the companies that we cooperate with are global and have projects all over the place. Through our network and with the help of our partners, we’re able to connect veterans [outside of our two key states] with great opportunities.