Today it’s payback time, and the energy industry is doing its part to assist veterans returning to civilian life. How? By encouraging them to apply for well-paying jobs in an industry where their temperament, willingness to learn new skills and work as a team under occasionally difficult circumstances are needed and amply rewarded.  

In this article, Hart Energy profiles a pipeline construction services company that has built a program with that goal in mind. Its success is the result of commitment and passion.

Lucie Stein-Cartford manages Training and Development for United Piping Inc. (UPI) in Duluth, Minn., with locations in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, and is a subsidiary of APi Group Inc.

APi’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) helps veterans transition to a civilian job with one of the APi Group companies. No prior construction experience is required. Participants rotate between seven APi Group companies, each for seven weeks, Stein-Cartford said.

The program familiarizes the veteran hire with each company’s work and provides the opportunity to apply their skills to a specific job. At the end of the rotation year, the candidate is placed in a position with an APi Group company.



Stein-Cartford, a native of the Twin Cities, spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as a supply officer. “What I liked about supply was not the hard numbers or the technical aspects; I liked connecting people. I worked with Alliance Careers (a recruiting firm that helps junior military officers find companies wanting to hire them). When I saw APi Group’s Leadership Development Program, I got excited because I wasn’t very confident about my ability to transition smoothly into a civilian workforce.

“I looked at supply chain and logistics roles, but they required a lot of technical knowledge and database usage that the Marines hadn’t required. I was excited at the opportunity to learn before I was expected to produce. I was confident that in a role where the main qualifier was my leadership experience, I could translate what I had learned as a Marine into creating value at a company,” she recalled.

Stein-Cartford spent a year in APi’s Leadership Development Program, visiting seven locations for seven weeks, much like a high-level internship. She worked at mechanical companies, industrial installation providers, energy contractors and fire protection companies. Afterward, she went through a placement process with the APi Group CEO and presidents of the companies she had spent time with, then was hired at UPI as a field engineer.

“I don’t have an engineering background; in fact, I have a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, so APi and UPI were taking a chance on me as someone who could bring value without having that technical certification,” she said.

Stein-Cartford found that her initial role didn’t play to her strengths. “I’m collaborative and find a lot of energy being creative. I wanted to stay with UPI, so I tried to find gaps in the company that match the skill set that I bring to the table.”

She knew It took an immense amount of training to prepare someone to work on a pipeline site, and that UPI had a vast wealth of potential in terms of leadership and development. Stein-Cartford suggested to UPi’s leadership team that she would be best suited for coordinating and managing the training that’s required, which is what she’s been doing since August 2016.

In fact, she has helped establish the current program at UPI, which has three major areas of focus:

  • Federal Compliance, which includes operator qualification, training and testing and other safety topics, such as scaffold inspection and hazardous material handling;
  • Additional technical training, which ranges from corrosion and weld inspection to project management professional (PMP) certification; and,
  • Leadership development, which focuses on the potential each individual has to create value and grow as a person as well as a professional.

On average, about 25 of UPI’s 200-plus member workforce are veterans. Across APi Group, which employs about 15,000 people, Stein-Cartford said that work includes design, welding, pipefitting, industrial safety, heavy-equipment operation, fire protection, project and operations management.  Within the LDP, several veterans hold presidential or vice-presidential roles, or lead branch offices or high-value support departments.
What does she look for in veteran hires? “Someone confident in themselves but open to learning; someone more interested in the success of the team than their own success.”  

There’s another crucial aspect to hiring veterans that provides an intangible benefit for employers, Stein-Cartford acknowledged.

“The Leadership Development Program brings an important outside perspective to the business world. The leadership we learn in the military has varying levels of direct application to business, but most importantly we are taught to be flexible and that taking care of our people is the most important thing we can do. When you come into the business world where the  bottom line is the dominant priority, it helps to have people who can step up and say what the impact is on the people here, how it may change the team and help it be more successful in changing conditions.

“Often,” she continued, “folks coming out of the military are accustomed to working through challenges no matter how difficult they may appear.  Something that might have been challenging in an office, branch, or group for a long time, by bringing in that different perspective, someone whose whole focus is finding a solution, can be really helpful for the business.”  
And there are equal benefits to veterans.

“The LDP gave me a network of people who knew what I had been through and understood how weird it was to transition into civilian life. I walked into the program when there were 35 members; I had 30 welcome emails the first day, and our shared background made me comfortable asking questions about everything from the vision of the business to the things that most businesses don’t think about explaining, like what business casual dress is. There’s no military analog for those things.

“At APi, the number one benefit is a network similar to what you would have on active duty. People who get it and you can rely on. People who come from a similar mindset and are also pushing themselves in a variety of environments and directions. If you need extra motivation or new ideas, you can reach out to that group at any time.”
How has the program helped in the transition back into private civilian life?

“Beginning your transition is a very uncertain time if you don’t already have a job lined up. With the Leadership Development Program, I had a schedule and plan, a person I reported to. And I know I had a year in which it was my job to learn.

“You still face the pressures, especially if you have a family, of transitioning out of the military support system and getting used to civilian health care, living off base but you’re supported in your job as you’re not expected to assume profit and loss responsibility right away. Your focus is on learning. People around you know that. You really have a chance to make your own personal adjustment while you are learning this new job,” Stein-Cartford said.