The 13 graduates from the United Association’s most recent Fort Carson Veterans in Piping® (VIP®) welding program had a special keynote speaker when Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper stepped up to the podium on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. He said, “You are all at a turning point in your career. We have had an all-volunteer military for roughly 40 years. The military has an obligation—to not just welcome our soldiers home, but to make sure they have a smooth transition that will lead to a high quality of life. And I have always said that quality of life starts with a job. A good job is not just about level of pay, or autonomy, or level of responsibility—a good job leads to another job and another job—that becomes a career.”
The Governor was referring to the United Association’s award-winning Veterans in Piping program, which is active and ongoing at five military bases and will be increased to six in the fall. The program trains active-duty military for careers in the pipefitting [welding program] and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC) industries. Once they complete the 18-week intensive programs, the participants are assigned to a local union apprenticeship program in an area of the country where they want to be, and they are immediately put to work with one of the local’s signatory contractors. The VIP participants are given credit toward their five-year apprenticeship with the United Association before they become a full-blown journeyworker.
Governor Hickenlooper was very impressed with the program stating, “The VIP program is valuable because you have a confluence of critical needs. You have people who have volunteered to protect this country, who have put their lives at risk to protect our freedoms, and we have an obligation to make sure they succeed. What the VIP program does is create skill sets, it builds on the character and talents of these returning vets and enhances those skill sets, so they are going to be able to go out and have great jobs. These types of jobs—pipefitters and welders—are in great demand. These are jobs where they really will be appreciated.
“We were playing pool last night with the President [President Barack Obama], and we were talking about two groups—the long-term unemployed and returning vets—as areas where we need, as a country, to focus our attention. There is, in almost every case, a solution. We just need to take the time, and make sure we get that vet the right skills, so that we can pay them back for what they have done for our country.”
Governor Hickenlooper said that he would like to see other companies take the initiative that the United Association has to employ our veterans. He stated that this program should be a model for everyone to follow.