For the transitioning active-duty service members learning to weld in the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) Class 23 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, it is hard to believe class is already half-way over.
Participants are starting to pick the Local Union they will enter after they leave the military to begin their apprenticeships.
The class is a Career Skills Program (CSP) program for transitioning active-duty service members.
Now that they feel more comfortable with a welding torch in their hands, what are their impressions of the class so far?
“It’s welcoming, almost like being in the military,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class James Laban. “Everyone’s like brothers. We get along and support each other. There’s a special bond.”
Army Spc. Raymond Ross admits the COVID pandemic has been challenging, but the organized structure of the training program streamlines the learning process.
“The experience is well-guided,” he said. “I have already learned much more than I had hoped to. Online learning has been simple yet effective.”
Good pay and benefits after military transition
The UA VIP program takes transitioning active-duty service members and trains them in a trade during their last few months of service. It was created to address a growing shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry.
After participating in the CSP program for military transitioning, the students leave the military and enter into UA registered apprenticeship programs, earning good pay and benefits from the beginning.
The UA VIP program provided Ross an opportunity to follow in his family’s tradition of going into the trades.
“The program has provided me with some great experience to get into the welding trades,” Ross said. “My family has been working in the trades their whole careers, and this was my opportunity to begin.”
Union careers in a high demand industry
Once the students transition out of the military, the UA VIP graduates will enter a UA Local Union at an agreed upon location. There are hundreds of possibilities across the country.
During their registered apprenticeship program, participants will earn while they learn, their pay increasing as they progress through the program. Their families are quickly eligible for quality healthcare benefits. They also start building a pension and 401K retirement benefits.
“Do it if you are interested in learning a skill and want to put in the effort,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Dunkelberger. “The program has made it much easier to transition out of the military.”