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Graduate says UA VIP program gave him a leg up over other apprentices

Marshall Payton

Marine Lance Cpl. Marshall Payton transitioned out of the military in 2022 and began his civilian career as a welder with Plumbers, Pipefitters and Welders Local 146, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Before he left the military, Payton enrolled in the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) program in late 2021, where he was a member of Camp Lejeune Welding Class 20. Marshall

The VIP program is a DOD SkillBridge program that assists active-duty service members preparing to leave the military learn new skills that will lead to a rewarding career in the pipe trades. 

Now working as a third-year apprentice, Payton believes the UA VIP program helped him learn the skills necessary for a successful civilian career. 

“The VIP program set me up with very steady employment and very good benefits,” Payton said. 

Payton was attracted to the VIP program over other SkillBridge programs because of its benefits, such as guaranteed job placement. He knew he wanted a career in the pipe trades before he found out about the UA.  

During his time in the VIP program, Payton was taught by journeyman instructor Greg Abrams. Payton and his classmates were taught through classroom instruction and hands-on training. 

Since graduating and beginning his apprenticeship, Payton has worked on a variety of projects. 

“I’ve worked on anything from clean rooms to sewer tie-ins,” Payton said. “For example, this week, I have cut down a couple hundred feet of 3” copper lines and made a steam repair on carbon for a hospital.” 

Payton is currently working for Freer Mechanical and said because it is a smaller company in his Local, he has been tasked with a lot of plumbing and other general construction tasks that he was unsure about at first but has since picked up quickly. 

Marshall PaytonPayton recommends the VIP program to his friends and other active-duty service members who are transitioning out of the military. 

His advice to anyone considering applying to the UA VIP program is to be ready to work.

“The Veterans in Piping program really helped me get a leg up from anyone else transitioning out of the military because I got in when I was young and had no skills,” Payton said. “Greg Abrams, who I still talk to often, really focused his time and effort to make sure I was over-prepared for the jobs I’ve been given.” 

Start a career with the UA

Since its creation in 2008, the UA VIP program has helped thousands of active-duty service members transition from the military into rewarding civilian careers. 

After graduating from the UA VIP program and transitioning out of the military, VIP graduates are guaranteed job placement and entrance into a DOL-registered UA apprenticeship program at an agreed-upon location. 

Apprentices will earn a livable wage and qualify for comprehensive healthcare benefits for themselves and their families. 

After successfully completing their apprenticeship, graduates turn out as journeymen, which gives them more career opportunities. 

The UA VIP program offers 118 days of training to transitioning service members as they prepare for a civilian career in welding, HVACR or fire suppression at the following seven select military bases: