How NextOp Helps Veterans Get Careers in Skilled Trades

Construction Electrician Constructionman Stephanie N. Bugaski from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, cuts wood new bus stops onboard Camp Lemonnier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Jared E. Walker)

If working behind a desk from 9-to-5 doesn't sound like an appealing post-military transition plan, a job in construction might be a good fit.

And it makes good financial sense. According to the Department of Labor, the construction industry is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, with a gain of about 747,600 new jobs.

Related: Search for construction jobs.

It may come as a surprise that the construction industry is so hot. But short of just grabbing your nearest hammer, how can veterans break in?

That's where NextOp comes in. Headquartered in Houston, NextOp recruits, trains and places high-performing, middle-enlisted military leaders into skilled trade careers, including construction. They have a special focus on the construction energy sector and are branching out into IT and tech as well.

"Veterans are naturally suited for jobs in the construction industry," says Mia Garcia, a Marine Corps veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is now program director for NextOp. "Almost all of us at NextOp are veterans, and we know that transitions can be difficult. We're here to help middle enlisted transition into great careers that last."

NextOp has a great success rate. On average, it places vets in jobs in less than a month, with an 80 percent retention rate. Garcia credits that success to their one-on-one case management style.

"Vets are not just a number to us," Garcia said. "We're really looking at what they want to do, and we stay connected to them as a resource long after they've found a job."

Veterans don't need any special training to apply, but many already possess skills that carry over. NextOp will help veterans assess their military experience and translate that to a job in the construction industry.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

"After I was laid off, NextOp found me a better-paying job in the supply chain field. … After six interviews, I was offered the position of senior project sourcing specialist at Air Liquide, with a higher salary than what I was making at Maersk," said Marine veteran Clay Lockett. "Without the help of NextOp, I wouldn't be in the position I am today -- not only in my career but also with my family."

NextOp helps veterans with one-on-one mentoring, resume building, interview skills and networking connections to companies. It also partners with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) to help veterans get the necessary credentials.

Some of the high-demand jobs that NextOp veterans have landed include project management, electrician, heavy equipment operator, pipefitter and lineman.

Because of the variety of jobs, and the wide range of experience levels, it's hard to pin down an "average salary" for "construction-related jobs." But as an example, a carpenter's "average" yearly income is $45,949-$61,323, and a master plumbers can be from $46,660-$79,000 (near the top end). Surveyors range around $60,704 and electricians vary between $40,991-$53,126.

Veterans interested in a career in construction can find out more at NextOp and apply online.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

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-- Sean Mclain Brown can be reached at sean.brown@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @seanmclainbrown.

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