The UA VIP program celebrated the 30th welding class to graduate at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton since the program began in 2009. Major General (Retired) Matthew Caulfield and Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stepp, Commanding Officer, 9th Communication Battalion both spoke at the graduation ceremony, which honored the transitioning active-duty military service members who successfully completed the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) Welding Program Camp Pendleton.
The Aug. 29 graduation recognized the 16 participants of the free, accelerated 18-week Skillbridge program, which offers guaranteed employment, the opportunity to earn a living wage and great health and retirement benefits in an agreed upon geographical location. For many of the students, the ceremony marked the beginning of the next stage in their lives.
“This course has been a huge stress reliever for my wife and I,” said Marine Sergeant Andrew Anderson. “I no longer have to worry about finding a job or being out of work to go to school to learn this trade.”
Fellow Marine Sergeant Chandler Armstrong, who also graduated from Welding Class 30, was grateful for the opportunity the UA VIP Program offered.
“I knew it was something I wanted to do,” said Armstrong. “This was a great opportunity to get into the trade and have a job lined up after I get out of the military.”
He credited the Camp Pendleton UA VIP welding instructors, Sean Ellis and Jason Culkin, for helping him learn more about welding than he thought was possible in 18 weeks.
The UA VIP Program prepares students for immediate entry into the construction workforce with a UA signatory contractor. During the 18-week course at Camp Pendleton, participants receive both classroom instruction and hands-on training in order to learn basic welding skills.
For those who successfully complete the program, UA VIP helps alleviate the stress faced by service members transitioning out of the military. Through guaranteed employment, they can focus on taking care of themselves and their families instead of worrying about finding a job.
Once UA VIP graduates successfully transition back into civilian life, they will enter the UA’s five-year apprenticeship program and will improve upon their existing welding skills, gaining new piping industry skills and acquire industry experience. They will also receive corresponding hourly wage increases from their employer as they progress through the apprenticeship program. The wage increases are in addition to the excellent health insurance and great retirement benefits – both a 401k plan and a pension – they receive when they begin their new job.
Both Anderson and Armstrong urge other active-duty transitioning military service members at any military installation apply for the UA VIP program.
“Stop thinking about it and do it because there are limited spots and it is a great opportunity,” said Anderson.