The United Association (UA) Veterans in Piping (VIP) Program is an award-winning program that offers high quality skills training and careers with the UA in the pipe trades industry to active-duty military personnel who are preparing to leave the service.
Learn all about the program and how you can get involved here!
What is the UA VIP Program: The United Association (UA) Veterans in Piping (VIP) Program is an award-winning program that offers high quality skills training and careers with the UA in the pipe trades industry to active-duty military personnel who are preparing to leave the service. The United Association established the program in 2008 as a means of addressing two important issues: 1. A growing shortage in the construction industry of skilled workers due to the combined effects of an aging workforce, increased demand and lack of skills training for youth; and 2. Despite the fact that U.S. veterans are disciplined and highly trainable, they continue to experience an exceedingly high unemployment rate upon transitioning from the military. The UA VIP Program was made to remedy that high unemployment rate.
- What is the UA? The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), affiliated with the national building trades, represents approximately 340,000 plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters and service technicians in North America. Learn more about the United Association here.
How does the UA VIP Program work? Participants are selected for accelerated 18-week programs in welding/pipefitting, fire sprinkler fitting or as service technicians for the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) sector—all fields experiencing an increased demand for skilled workers. Training is completed while on active duty prior to transitioning out of the service. Participants also earn industry-recognized certifications as part of their education. All UA VIP graduates that affiliate with a UA local union are afforded direct entry into their apprenticeship program, leading to lifelong career options. All VIP training is paid for entirely by the UA and its industry partners at NO cost to participants.
What happens after I graduate from the UA VIP Program? After successfully completing the UA VIP Program on base, you’ll choose the UA Local you wish to affiliate with and be placed into the formal apprenticeship program.
An apprenticeship is a mixture of classroom instruction and on-the-job training, and you can also earn college credit while you’re going through the apprenticeship program. It is like a college, because as a VIP graduate you will receive advanced instruction from an accredited program while preparing you for your career. But unlike a college, you will earn while you learn, meaning you will get paid while “on-the-job.”
The United Associations apprenticeship program is a five-year program, but remember VIP graduates can get up to one year of advancement depending on the state and local union they choose. Five years might seem like a long time, but remember you are working and earning a living. We continue to train you so that you are highly employable. That is our goal—to give you the skills to have a successful lifelong career as a piping professional.
Where can I participate in the UA VIP Program? The UA VIP Program is located on eight bases throughout the United States: Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Fort Carson in Colorado, Fort Hood in Texas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.
Who is Eligible? The VIP program is open to military personnel preparing to leave the service and currently stationed at a participating base. You must be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent and be physically capable of performing work.
What careers are open to me after I graduate the UA VIP Program and become a member of the UA? Traditionally, there are four career options available to you through the United Association and in each of the fields, there are thousands of opportunities for you to learn, grow and build the future you deserve.
- Welder/Pipefitter: A welder works in every area of the construction industry where metals and alloys are joined. They will work with plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters and HVACR technicians. Work will include installation, maintenance and repair of all types of piping systems, as well as joining structural steel brackets and supports for such systems. A welder has to work in many different environments and in all types of positions. Welders will study blueprints, drawings and specifications for the job and must measure, cut and weld using various methods and tools.
- HVACR Service Technician: A service technician's work covers the general responsibilities for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR). This would include the installation and maintenance of all sizes of heating and cooling systems for residential, commercial, institutional and industrial applications. Some job-specific applications include complete gas piping installations, high-voltage electrical components, testing and analyzing and startup of systems. Watch this movie to learn more about the HVACR Service Technician position.
- Fire Sprinkler Fitter Sprinkler: Fire System installers or Sprinkler Fitters, as they are commonly known, have detailed knowledge of fire codes and the methods for installation of sprinkler piping systems and a responsibility for life safety in residential, commercial and industrial applications. They install wet, dry, pre-action, deluge and chemical fire protection and extinguishing systems, just to name a few. As a sprinkler fitter, you will install and maintain high- and low-pressure piping, equipment and devices to supply fire protection systems with water, foam, carbon dioxide and other materials in hospitals, commercial buildings, manufacturing plants, homes and in apartment buildings. Watch this movie to learn more about the Sprinkler Fitter position.
- Plumbing: Our contractors and members are actively engaged in plumbing installation, repair, service and maintenance of piping and plumbing systems and equipment used for drinking (potable) water distribution, sanitary waste drainage, storm water systems and gas distribution. Our plumbers also work on technical installations for medical gas in hospitals and nursing homes, hydronic in-floor heating, solar thermal panels, heat pumps, cross-connection control and many other systems necessary for the health and safety of the general public. Watch this movie to learn more about the Plumbing position.
Where are the careers? And how will I be compensated? The jobs exist in the United States and in Canada. Once you graduate from the 18-week VIP program, you will affiliate with a Local Union. Labor demands generally dictate the number of apprentices accepted at each location each year. All employment arrangements are conducted through the Local Union Joint Apprenticeship Committee. There are 276 local unions in North America. The pay scale and benefits are determined by the collective bargaining agreement that each local union makes with their respective signatory contractors. Compensation varies across the country. While there is not one pay scale for the entire industry, there is the benefit of continual growth.