UA Creates Accelerated Welding Programs
Keeping American Jobs in America
Talk to anyone in the trades these days and they'll tell you that there is a shortage of skilled
craftspeople. Where are these intelligent, dedicated workers who are willing to be trained and want
to earn competitive wages and benefits? Mike Arndt, Director of Training for the UA, is betting
that they are just about to leave the military after serving their country. Mr. Arndt describes the
need for welders as overwhelming." The UA (United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the
Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada) has a number of training
programs to help UA local unions around the country and contractors meet the demand. One of these
programs is the sixteen-week accelerated welding program strictly for returning veterans.
The accelerated welding program, implemented by UA General President William Hite, seeks to identify and train candidates who may have little or no welding experience. The UA provides a remote welding instruction trailer, instructors, and consumables. Using "direct entry" legislation, the training occurs while the service men and women are waiting to be discharged from the military. When they complete the course, they have many of the welding certifications accepted in the US and Canada. They enter the apprenticeship program bypassing two to three years of training. This results in higher pay for the apprentice and fills the welding shortages faster.
Military veterans, Mr. Arndt explains, are serious about finding work. The unemployment rates for returning veterans is double that of other Americans. Many who are employed are working for minimum wage. The UA is eager to work with returning veterans to teach them a trade, and give them a great career with health and pension benefits. "Nobody loses on this. We get some of the best candidates available into our training, and at the same time we're helping people who have already done so much for their country," Mr. Arndt says.
The UA is using the accelerated model all over the country and has 25 of these programs going. At UA Local 26 in Lacey, Washington, twelve veteran candidates will soon graduate from the accelerated welding program. In addition to veterans, the UA is targeting trade schools, and recently partnered with the Bureau of Indian affairs to recruit Native Americans to training facilities in Chicago and Phoenix. Says Mr. Arndt, "We are very serious about working any way we can to help with the shortage of skilled workers in this country. These are American jobs and we want to keep them here."
The UA finds their military candidates through Helmets to Hardhats, advertising in military periodicals and through their Veterans In Piping, or VIP program. In the next few months, the program will be expanding to military bases bringing the training right to military candidates. Mike Arndt and Chris Gregoire, Governor of the State of Washington, will celebrate the UA's training programs and the achievements of the National Guardsmen who took part in the training in October. "'Helmets to Hardhats' provides a unique entry point for veterans transitioning into the state’s work force. It is an honor to recognize this innovative program for those who have served our country so selflessly," says Gov. Gregoire. "Now it is our turn to serve them by supporting their entry into the building trades construction industry work force."