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Army Sgt. lands promising trades career as a welder thanks to UA VIP

Army Sgt. lands promising trades career as a welder thanks to UA VIP

Army Sgt. Wayne Walston joined the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) program because welding seemed like a promising civilian career.

Today, Walston is a journeyman with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25, having turned out in 2020. He works for Modern Piping as a foreman, doing mostly industrial projects. He enjoys a good-paying career where the demand for jobs is high. 

Walston owes his success to the UA VIP program, which taught him foundational welding skills to begin his civilian career. The UA VIP program is a Department of Defense SkillBridge Program that teaches transitioning active-duty service members valuable skills to begin careers in the pipe trades. 

In 2015, Walston started his UA VIP training in Fort Campbell Welding Class 1. Over the course of 18 weeks, he trained alongside an experienced journeyman instructor. His training was a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. He gained basic welding skills and earned industry-recognized certifications that advanced his training.

The UA VIP program offers training in welding, HVACR and fire suppression at select military installations all over the country. Transitioning active-duty service members are eligible to apply to the UA VIP program during their last six months of enlistment. Training takes place during during the last four months of their active-duty service.


Journeyman status and pay scale worth the hard work

Once he graduated from the UA VIP program and transitioned out of the military in 2015, Walston began his registered apprenticeship program with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 in Fulton, Ill., and immediately began working. 

As he trained, he earned good union pay. He conceded the pay was a bit less than he earned in the military, but as he progressed in his apprenticeship and his wages increased. Obtaining journeyman status and the accompanying payscale made the hard work worth it, he said. 

“I have to admit it was hard at first because it’s a pay cut if you were married while on active duty,” Walston said. “It took until my fourth year to break even, but the pay I earned in my fifth year and as a journeyman made it worth the time.”

As an apprentice, Walston quickly became eligible for quality health insurance for his family. He started earning a pension and contributions to a 401K for his retirement.

“It’s a great career, but you have to work for it and put in the time as an apprentice,” Walston said. “It will be tough at first, but the pay gets better and is definitely worth it when you become a journeyman.”

Walston would recommend the UA VIP program to any transitioning active-duty service member interested in a good paying civilian career in the pipe trades.

Learn more about the UA VIP welding and fire sprinkler fitting opportunities at Fort Campbell