LITTLE CANADA, MINN. — Keith Mercurio, sales trainer for Nexstar, had an idea that would help returning servicemen and servicewomen, the plumbing and HVAC industries, and the U.S. as a whole. When Mercurio sat down for lunch, about a year ago, with Jack Tester, CEO of Nexstar, he spoke with Tester about his idea.

Mercurio was advised by Tester to propose the idea to The Nexstar Legacy Foundation, and the Troops To Trades program was created by The Nexstar Legacy Foundation to help U.S. veterans obtain the necessary skill sets to work in the trade industries.

Mercurio wrote up the proposal, including the goals of training and helping employ returning veterans. The Nexstar Legacy Foundation adopted it as one of their programs.  

CONTRACTOR had an opportunity to talk with Mercurio about his vision and what inspired him to want to help veterans.

“My two best friends joined the Marines,” said Mercurio. “They both became RECON Marines, a Special Forces division of the Marine Corp, and they ended up serving in the same unit. They are both extraordinary people with a lot of talent. When they came back from service, I was able to watch how they reintegrated into society — one of my friends didn’t have much to do, he was just home. These guys are having to come home where there are no jobs for them. He was having a tough time.

“While I am seeing this happen to my friends, I am also listening to how our businesses are having trouble finding good people,” added Mercurio. “And both of these situations just didn’t make any sense to me.”

Then it occurred to Mercurio that the only thing his friends were missing from their skill sets was professional training.

“But they did get all the skills from training in the military that anyone would ever hope for in a human being — they are reliable, respectful, disciplined, hardworking, noble and honest,” said Mercurio. “They are these extraordinary people without professional training.”

That’s when Mercurio talked with Tester about opening up Nexstar training to veterans regardless of if they work for Nexstar companies. Nexstar would give veterans the opportunity to grow professionally.

“I said to Jack that I think it will be amazing for both of them, and the other guys in our classes, and he said, ‘Keith let’s do it,’ ” said Mercurio. “He didn’t even hesitate. He told me to write up a proposal, so we can submit it to the Nexstar Legacy Foundation.”

Mercurio wrote up the proposal, including the goals of training and helping employ returning veterans. The Nexstar Legacy Foundation adopted it as one of their programs.  

“Just the access to technical training and job placement that this program offers is an extraordinary opportunity for us, aligning veterans with employment opportunities,” said Mercurio. “This is an amazing program. It’s good for the country to payback our veterans and it’s also good for sustaining the wellbeing of our country by putting good people into the trades.”