Veteran Stories

June 9, 2016

Bryan Shumway was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for 18.5 years, a time during which he commonly flew Learjets and C-130s. He traveled the world and was deployed to the Middle East four times. He had been trusted with such challenges and faced them head on, and yet the job search after re-entering civilian life would prove to be one more unexpected challenge thrown his way.

Through the Nexstar Legacy Foundation’s Troops to Trades program, Bryan was able to find a great career. He said Troops to Trades was a big part of his transition into the civilian workforce—he needed the opportunity to tap into a certain skill set to make himself more hirable within a specific industry.

“[Troops to Trades] gives you a little bit of training to make that former military guy a little bit more marketable to the trade industry,” he said.

When Byran was nearing the end of his service in 2014, his mother had a stroke. Where he was going to live after retirement was decided. He would start looking for work in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. In July of that year, Bryan completed his time in the military and began looking for jobs.

While he hadn’t ruled out the trades, he hadn’t looked into heading that direction with his career yet, either.

“It’s not fair to say I would never be in the trades,” Bryan said. “I’ve always had an interest with doing things hands-on, tinkering with things, taking things apart and putting them back together.”

But his job search as a veteran proved to be a challenge.

“My experience in the Air Force brought a lot of other intangible skills to the table, and so I was hoping employers would be able to see that aspect rather than that I lacked a specific skill that they needed in that spot.”

Unfortunately, Bryan heard time and again that he just didn’t have experience in the certain area an employer needed. His luck started to change when at a job fair in August 2014, he met Danielle Martini, owner of Three-Way Plumbing Service in Concord, North Carolina. In his short conversation with her, he discovered that she was only looking for experienced plumbers, so he gave her his resume and went on his way.

A month later, Danielle called him and told him she wanted to create a position for him in her company as a skills coach. In this role, he would coach the technicians in the Nexstar Service System, among other things. She told him to apply for the Nexstar Legacy Foundation’s Troops to Trades program.

With funding from Troops to Trades, Bryan went to two Nexstar Network trainings before he ever set foot in Three-Way Plumbing. At Three-Way, he was a skills coach for around six months, and he was soon promoted to service manager after that, which is his current role. He was the first service manager at Three-Way Plumbing.

When Bryan is not working or spending time with his wife and three children, he has volunteered for the Nexstar Legacy Foundation. He recently traveled to Fort Bragg and met another Troops to Trades alumni to represent the foundation at a job fair, bringing his Troops to Trades experience full circle.

October 20, 2015

After 20 years of service, Anthony retired from the military and began his search for a new career. Knowing he wanted a career working with his hands, he used his GI Bill to begin training at Fayetteville Technical Community College for automotive repair and HVAC.

When his home air conditioning broke down, a local company Blanton’s Heating and A/C, sent out a technician who shared information with Anthony about the Troops to Trades program.

He immediately applied, was accepted and received a four week training program at Lennox’s Build-A-Tech training for HVAC technicians. Additionally, he attended the Nexstar Network’s Super Meeting, where he connected with businesses interested in hiring him.

A year after his chance meeting with an HVAC technician, Anthony has his own truck at a residential service company.

Anthony is an example of the many potential PHCE residential service technicians that may never enter the industry without an invitation. He is just one representative of the many excellent potential technicians who we need to invite into our industry.

September 15, 2015

Troops to Trades AC Pro Scholarship award winner, Jeff, has just 2 semesters left in schooling and has never been more optimistic. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA, which has kept him on the Presidents List, Jeff is excited to start working in the field.

“I can honestly say that I will never regret this career. I get a great feeling when I am able to fix something that is broken. I know that in this trade I will be able to take care of my family, which they greatly deserve for supporting me through my military service and through the hardship of paying for school. This scholarship will greatly help me to accomplish all of my goals.”

AC Pro, a distributor in southwestern US, has granted a $5,000 Troops to Trades scholarship for the last two years. In addition, Gabriel of AC Pro has spread the word about the Troops to Trades program at countless job fairs.

Thank you AC Pro!

April 13, 2015

“Everything changes with a phone call,” stated Scott a retired Air Force veteran who recently went through the Troops to Trades program to become a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) technician.  After serving in the Air Force and building a career in the security industry, Scott was called to serve closer to home.  His mother was ill and he was needed at home.  This need turned into a tough but rewarding two year commitment caring for first his mother as she struggled with cancer, then caring for his father.

He eventually moved his father to Colorado where Scott reunited with his wife who had been stationed in Korea, and their children.  It was time to get back into career mode.  Unfortunately this did not go well, and he found it difficult to compete since he had been away from his career in security for a length of time.  He was told that he interviewed well, was polite and well spoken, but since he had no current related experience, the jobs were always awarded to someone else.

After several attempts to get back into the field of security, Scott and his family were faced with financial crisis.  Keeping current with the household bills was difficult and they were barely making ends meet each month.  One day, Scott’s daughter came to him and asked for lunch money for school.  There was just nothing left to give.

“We were paying our bills, but just barely keeping our noses above water.  That’s when I connected with Troops to Trades.”  At that point, Scott made the decision to change careers.  He was willing to dig ditches or become a Walmart greeter if it meant a positive impact for his family but he was also looking for a career.  He did his research and networked, wanting to make the best choice.  He had met with a friend who was a career counselor at a Nexstar company, who helped him learn about  careers in HVAC and connected him with the Troops to Trades program. He applied for the Troops to Trades scholarship, was awarded a training grant and attended the BuildATech program in Dallas.  Scott integrated the life skills he earned while serving in the Air Force and combined them with knowledge learned in the Build a Tech program to move into a solid career in the HVAC industry.

Scott credits the military with making him an excellent fit for a HVAC career.  Scott’s father was in the Army, and his remembers his father saying, “If you are ever looking for training and need help to grow up a bit, military is always an option.”  After high school, Scott found himself drifting.  “It was time to go, time to get my life started so I joined the Air Force, based on some good advice from my father.”  The Air Force provided employment and Scott enjoyed a solid career in security.  His 25 years in the service offered him experiences that ranged from simply writing tickets to working in highly protected nuclear areas and providing personal protection including a 4-year detail protecting a top general in Europe.

The most powerful lesson learned from this career was how to interact with people, how to read people, body language, facial expressions, that sort of thing. “There is a time when you need to give orders and there’s a time when you need to smile politely and just listen.”

Scott uses this skill when going to a customer’s home as a heating and air conditioning representative.  “Sometimes you show up and they are not real happy.”

Recently Scott was called to do a client follow up.   A thermostat that had been installed was problematic.  Through no fault of the company, the part went bad.  The customer was not very pleased.  Scott approached the situation with empathy and said “Ma’am, you are right, you have a reason to be upset.”  She was blown away that he didn’t walk in the door and make excuses.  “I completely understand.  The best thing I can do for you is to fix the problem.  The company I work for stands behind our products and our services.  I am not leaving until you are happy! If it takes until midnight, I will be here until midnight.  You tell me when I am done.”  She was very thankful and surprised by that.  She had expected that I would tell her that it wasn’t our fault.

Experience in the military in dealing with people when sometimes they are not at their best, whether injured or just not very happy with being what to do, directly correlates to his current interactions with clients. “If I am on a routine call and they expect a $20 tune up and I find a cracked heat exchanger which turns into a $2000 to $5000 repair and by the way I have to shut the furnace down & you won’t have any heat until you replace the furnace can make the situation uncomfortable.  It takes tact to let them vent, redirect and come back to the issue at hand.”

Scott has found his career in the HVAC industry to be very rewarding.

“The thing I enjoy the most about the job is the problem solving.  It is not monotonous by any choice of imagination.  Every time you walk into the door, it is a different situation.  You’ve got to figure out the puzzle.  Why is this machine not doing what it is supposed to be doing?  I enjoy this mental exercise, figuring out the problem.”

Secondary to that, dealing with customers.  “I like meeting new people and making new friends.  Yes, I am there to make money.  I am there to make money for my company.  It is rewarding when they are happy at the end of the call.   I give them my card at the end of my visit and I tell them that I want to be YOUR HVAC person.  If I have done a good service for you, please ask for me.  Nothing feels better than when they say, “Oh absolutely! You’re my guy!”  That tells me I was successful.  That tells me they were happy with the service they received.  That they were happy with the professionalism.  They are a satisfied customer.  That is what I am shooting for.  That is what I enjoy about the job.”

On the other hand, the job isn’t always glamorous.  Scott is not very fond of crawl spaces.  “Hauling a tool bag and bucket of parts through a tight space under a building is not fun.”

Sometimes the hours are not the best.  It can be hard to leave home before the family gets out of bed and not return until after dark or even the next day.  “It takes commitment to your career when you are tired and it is 8pm and your dispatcher tells you that there are more calls on the board.”

Scott suggests that if you feel that the service industry might be a good fit for you, to do your homework.  “Research the internet.  Talk to guys who have been in the field for a year, 5 years…20 years and see what they have to say.  This is a rewarding career but requires commitment and you need to know what you are getting into.”

Scott encourages other veterans to  research and learn about the industry.  If itfeels like a good fit, he highly recommends it and the job market is wide open.  He has seen studies that show the plumbing, electrical and HVAC trades are losing anywhere from 8-15% in labor over next 10 to 15 years.  At the same time, polls of young students asked if they have considered going into the trades, only about 6% acknowledge that it is interesting.  Scott’s company is looking and recruiting for plumbing, electrical and HVAC techs continuously!  There are not enough quality techs to go around!

“Computers or robots are never going to take your place.  Opportunities in  HVAC are becoming more and more technical, and more specialized.  If you want to become a controls specialist the market is wide open. Interested in commercial or residential?  Sales, installation, service?  There are so many opportunities.”

“And you can go pretty much anywhere in the country with this training and find a job! Only like AC?  You can find a job.  If you only like furnaces, Minnesota might be your place.”

Troops to Trades was very helpful in transitioning Scott into the HVAC industry and he feels strongly about the organization.  “I can’t recommend Troops to Trades highly enough!”

He is also very protective over this organization that he considers family.  “It is a quality organization doing a really good thing.  The commitment from people that really don’t have a dog in the fight is astounding to me. So before submitting your application, make sure you are committed.  Do your research! And make sure you are serious about it.”

Scott’s HVAC career and customer service is something that he is proud of and he is very grateful to Troops to Trades for their assistance in helping him achieve this goal.  “I appreciate them for what they have done for me…and for my family.  They have helped my 4 year old, they have helped my 10 year old.  Now they are helping my dad who is living with us due to his health.”

August 21, 2014

“The Nexstar Legacy Foundation’s Troops to Trades program is proud to announce the very first fund award-winner has accepted the position of ride-a-long coach at Allen Services in Fort Collins, Colorado. The recipient served in the Marines from 2001-2005 and received an honorable discharge as a Corporal in 2005 and moved back to New Orleans.

As of 2012, the fund recipient was attending school and working as a waiter, unsure of his next move, when he learned of the Troops to Trades program. He was awarded a Nexstar Legacy Foundation fund to attend Service System School, with the hope of pursuing a sales oriented position within the industry.

August 14, 2014

Scott Heberling talks about his experience in the Troops to Trades program and how it has affected his daily life. As a twenty-five year retired Air Force veteran, Scott found getting back into the civilian workforce was difficult. He applied to the Lennox BuildATech program offered through Troops to Trades. He went to the technical training offered in Dallas, Texas, during which he learned about air conditioning and furnaces and was transformed into a well-trained and revenue-generating HVAC technician.