LEADOn! Article

An Experience in Apprenticeship: Brandon’s Story

Fall 2021 | Apprenticeship

Veterans, and especially veterans with disabilities, who have served this country at home and abroad, often find that transitioning into the civilian workforce after they leave the military presents one of the biggest challenges of their lives.

Brandon Henning experienced the transition firsthand. After 16 years of active duty and a deployment as a heavy equipment mechanic with a Stryker brigade in Iraq, he was medically discharged due to combat injuries. For the last four years he has been working for U.S. Fire Equipment, a fire apparatus repair facility, in Sumner, Washington where he finished his two-year apprenticeship in May of 2020, as an inside sales engineer.

He describes the position as something that ties different areas of the company together. “It’s a lot of customer service,” he says. “When people call us and they want a particular solution to a problem that may or may not exist, I’m that liaison to try and put something together.”

In addition to working with clients, Brandon also does some technical work. “I still do a little bit of wiring and electrical work and very light maintenance work here and there,” he says. “The position itself now takes me out of the constant work and if there’s something I’m not able to do I can easily guide one of the other employees through it—which is what I do in most cases, to try and teach the other employees.”

The apprenticeship built on Brandon’s existing skill set, combining what he was already good at with the knowledge he acquired over his military career, so he could continue working in the field he loves. He appreciates having a first-hand, working knowledge of the industry. “If I were to go to college and try and get all the different certifications, it would probably take eight to 10 years,” he explains. “Whereas with the apprenticeship, I could go to work for a different company in the same capacity and have the certifications and the knowledge that I need in those areas.”

The most rewarding part of Brandon’s job is when clients come to pick up their products. “The biggest overall satisfaction is getting the department to come pick up their truck, and they’re just amazed that it not only meets certain expectations, but it’s better than they thought it would be,” Brandon says,

High-quality registered apprenticeship programs can provide a powerful boost to veterans transitioning from active duty. Apprenticeships accelerate career transition by combining experience in the workplace with technical training in the classroom on parallel tracks. This ensures that training is tailored to each profession and even to each employer. It also puts money in the pockets of apprentices from day one and increases dramatically the likelihood of a permanent hire at the end of the training period.