Ohio National Guard News

Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week Nov. 12-18

Combat boots to work boots:
Apprenticeship sparks Citizen-Soldier's career

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Ohio Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Martin Helms works with Iraqi contractors to build new barracks in Bagdad during a deployment in 2013, while he was with the 1194th Engineer Company, based in Chillicothe, Ohio. Currently a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 112th Engineer Battalion based in Brook Park, Ohio, Helms enlisted in 1999 while still in high school. (Courtesy photo)

Martin Helms (left), a chief warrant officer 2 in the Ohio Army National Guard, is a journey-level electrician and the Akron Area Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee’s training director, where he got his start as an electrical apprentice in 2006. Apprenticeship programs and skilled trades are some of the most sought after professions in Ohio. Pictured with Helms are committee staff members Steve Mangus (from left), Amy Pendergrass and Lysa Devinney. (Courtesy photo)

Helms family portrait.COLUMBUS, Ohio (11/12/18) — Since his junior year at Chippewa High School in Doylestown, Ohio, when one of his part-time jobs was helping an electrical contractor on weekends and summer breaks, Martin Helms has loved working with his hands.

Helms, now a chief warrant officer 2 with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 112th Engineer Battalion based in Brook Park, Ohio, enlisted in 1999 while still in high school. During his early years of service in the National Guard, he was working full-time as a residential wireman for a company in Rittman, Ohio.

“I loved doing this work but wanted to know more of the ‘why’ I was doing what I was told to do. This deeper interest to understand the reason behind the electrical installations stirred me further to become professionally educated,” Helms said.

He started taking classes at the University of Akron in the fall of 2001. A short time later, the World Trade Center towers fell and America was plunged into the War on Terrorism. Helms waited for the call to deploy. It finally came in January 2003 and he spent two years on active duty at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, located in Dayton, Ohio, in support of Operation Noble Eagle I and II.

In 2005, fresh from deployment and newly married, Helms was sitting in a post-deployment briefing when he heard about a program called “Helmets to Hardhats,” which helps military members transitioning from military to construction trade careers.

“Being in the construction trades, my ears perked up and I took notes on what to do,” he recalled. “I went to the website and it introduced me to the Akron Area Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, the closest organized electrical skilled apprenticeship program to my residence.”

Helms was accepted into the full-time apprentice program and began his professional electrical training. He graduated as an official journey-level worker eight years ago. Earlier this year, he became the Akron Area Electrical JATC’s training director, operating the electrical apprenticeship program for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 306 in Akron, which has 115 apprentices, 16 part-time instructors and staff, and three full-time staff.

Apprenticeship programs and skilled trades are some of the most sought after professions in Ohio. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the average starting salary for an apprentice in the Buckeye State is more than $30,000 per year and the average completion salary is more than $55,000 per year. The state’s ApprenticeOhio has more than 900 registered programs in industries such as construction, manufacturing, information/computer technology, health care and business services. Each program includes at least 2,000 hours of structured on-the-job training and 144 hours a year of related technical instruction.

At the National Guard Employment Enhancement Program, Joe Gabriel and Citizen Soldier for Life counselors help Ohio National Guard Soldiers and Airmen looking for high-demand and high-paying careers outside of those requiring a four-year college degree.

“We work closely with both union and non-union skilled trade programs to find the right location, position and fit for our clients,” Gabriel said. “The training and experiences gained in the Ohio National Guard correlate directly to many skilled labor positions and other in-demand sectors of the workforce where leadership, agility and the ability to adapt to change are key components of corporate culture.”

Helms feels his registered electrical apprenticeship experience changed his life, providing strong wage, health and benefits for him and his family of six.

“My military career and civilian career grew because of skills learned from both sectors,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure to use my skills to give back to my country, my community and my family.”

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