Jumping through the ranks was nothing new to JayLee Trujillo when she became a painter. Less than two years after completing her apprenticeship, and at age 28, she became a foreman supervising 15-20 other painters on a large military contract.
JayLee Trujillo, originally from Montana, went straight from high school into the military. She spent much of her 5-½ year career doing sheetmetal work and painting F-15 fighter jets at Elmendorf Air Force Base. After being deployed to South Korea and then moving to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, she was ready to return to Alaska and make it her home. She was at a kickball game when she met Bronson Fry, union representative for Painters and Allied Trades Local Union 1959. Fry encouraged her to look into Helmets to Hardhats.
The national program helps National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military members connect to quality career and training opportunities in the construction industry. Through Helmets to Hardhats, Trujillo was eligible to direct indenture into an apprenticeship; she didn’t have to wait for the once-yearly and extensive application process. It turns out Trujillo had the experience, skills, and leadership to move directly into a civilian career in the construction trades. Less than a year after starting what is normally a several-year apprenticeship, Trujillo became a journeywoman. “JayLee has been a model apprentice. She jumped through the ranks and is one of the best recruits we’ve ever had,” said Donnie Hansen, Apprentice Coordinator for Local 1959.
Today, Trujillo is a foreman for Performa, Inc., one of the largest union painting contractors in Alaska. She recently helped complete a 7-bay airplane hangar at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Trujillo says she has thoroughly enjoyed working as a civilian on a military project. “I love what I do,” she said. “The biggest surprise has been the overtime pay. I’m not ‘government property’ anymore and that’s amazing too.”
Trujillo strongly recommends the Helmets to Hardhats program for other veterans. “The Helmets to Hardhats program is an opportunity that many veterans may not be aware of,” she said. It offered her a gateway into a lifelong career, one at which she already excels. Alaska Works Partnership delivers the Helmet to Hardhats program in Alaska. Helmets to Hardhats works closely with the Unit and transition offices of the National Guard, Army (ACAP), Air Force, and Coast Guard. Funding is provided by the Alaska Department of Labor Veterans Employment.