The Nexstar Legacy Foundation is offering scholarships to veterans for training in the home service industry. (Photo courtesy Nexstar Legacy Foundation)

Minnesota company offers vets free training

The Nexstar Legacy Foundation, a non-profit in St. Paul, Minn., that will be participating in the Legion's Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair during the national convention (see below), offers free resources and training scholarships to persons wishing to enter the burgeoning – you guessed it – plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical fields.

Renée Cardarelle, executive director of Nexstar Legacy Foundation, is cheerleading on behalf of the disease-busting, sanitation-providing work of plumbing and plumbers because the industry offers "prestige, job security, stability and six-figure earning power." This conjures an image contrary to the traditional view of the building and home service trades and those who pursue them.

"It has been all about channeling talented students into a four-year college program and all else going into the trades," Cardarelle said. "This model ignores a variety of pathways that do not require a four-year degree and are professional and well-paying."

Nexstar Legacy Foundation is an outgrowth of its sister-company Nexstar® Network, a for-profit, member-owned business education and consultancy organization for service contractors. Nexstar Network’s founder, Milwaukee plumber Frank Blau and his protégée John Ward, created the charitable Nexstar Legacy Foundation scholarship program in 2005 to give back to the industry that supports them and to attract smart, ambitious newcomers to the field.

Nexstar Legacy Foundation recently launched a training and job placement initiative targeted specifically toward veterans called "Troops to Trades: Military Veterans’ Professional Training Program." It was the brainchild of Keith Mercurio, Nexstar Network training manager who, Cardarelle said, is "just passionate about helping our military veterans. He has two very dear friends in the military who he admires greatly, and Keith feels that his way of giving back, since he never did (military) service himself, is to do service for those who did."

Mercurio came to the foundation’s board with his enthusiastically accepted Troops to Trades idea in late 2012. By the end of 2013, Nexstar plans to train 40 veterans and is offering scholarships in two areas of interest — Troops to Trades Professional Training Scholarship for candidates wishing to specialize in management, sales and customer service; and Troops to Trades Build-a-Tech Scholarship in conjunction with HVAC industry leader Lennox. This series of courses is for those wanting to learn a technical trade, such as learning how to perform basic HVAC repair.

Troops to Trades program details, including online application links, can be found online here.

Cardarelle said that such a short course alone does not qualify a person to become a full-fledged technician, but it will put him or her in a "position to be hirable by a company that does HVAC installation and repair. A large number of the companies do their own on-the-job training and send their technicians to various advanced schools once they have some experience, but our training will certainly help them get a foot in the door."

The veteran training scholarships are comprehensive and generous. All costs, including travel to and from training sites, room and board and the coursework itself, are covered by the Nexstar Legacy Foundation. Cardarelle emphasizes that applicants do not need to be currently enrolled in school or working in the industry to apply for these scholarships.

The Troops to Trades program is still in its early days, Cardarelle said, and organizers hope it will grow exponentially in terms of students and the participation of corporate donors and collaborators. "We imagine big things," she said, "especially for the veterans joining us in this wonderful and rewarding industry."

Troops to Trades needs four trainees.

The Troops to Trades program is seeking five scholarship candidates for Lennox Build-a-Tech training in Dallas, Sept. 9 - Oct. 4. All expenses, including transportation, housing and meals, will be provided to trainees. Interested veterans can apply online here.

During the Legion’s 95th National Convention in Houston, the Nexstar Leagacy Foundation will be participating in the Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair, Aug. 27, and the Employment Transition Workshop, Aug. 26-27. Learn more about American Legion’s career-building events during National Convention here.

Register for the career fair and employment workshop: