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JBLM Welding Class 24 prepares grads for careers after the military

JBLM Welding Class 24 prepares grads for careers after the military

Army Sgt. Jose Gonzalez faced one fear transitioning out of the military: job placement.

Now that he is graduating from Joint Base Lewis-McChord Welding Class 24, that concern is behind him. The United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) program placed him with his first choice — the UA registered apprenticeship program at UA Local 32 in Seattle.

It is pretty amazing progress for someone who first began the program not knowing how to weld. But over the course of 18 weeks, Gonzalez and the other graduates in the class learned the basics of welding alongside an experienced journeyman instructor through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training.

“The VIP Program was fun, informative and difficult at times,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like I have learned skills that I would never have gotten anywhere else. I had a lot of time to adjust and learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. I chose welding because it is a great career path.”

The UA VIP program is a Career Skills Program (CSP) for transitioning active-duty service members. The students gained a foundational understanding of the welding trade in order to begin careers in the pipe trades — despite the fact that many had never held a welding torch in their hands before they began UA VIP training.

“Our instructor has been a huge help with explaining everything and making sure we are all on the same page before moving on,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Mendonca. “It’s been a lot of fun with how much hands-on training we have gotten. I’ve loved learning all the different types of welding positions and learning the fundamentals of pipe fitting. My favorite part is the welding itself and pushing myself to make my welds look good.”

The students earned industry recognized certifications that will give them a leg up on their peers and accelerate their progress into UA registered apprenticeship programs. They earned certifications in oxy fuel cutting, SMAW plate welding, SMAW and GTAW pipe welding.

“It’s been a rewarding experience learning how to weld,” Army Sgt. Andrew Massey said. “We’ve learned how to weld 4 inch and 6 inch pipes in the 2G and 5G welding positions. I have also learned basic pipe fitting fundamentals. In addition, I've learned how to use oxy-acetylene for cutting, as well as a bandsaw and a portable bandsaw.”


Guaranteed job placement after the military

Once the UA VIP grads transition out of the military, they will join a UA registered apprenticeship at an agreed upon location. Some of the locations the graduates selected include Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Houston.

In their UA registered apprenticeship program, they will earn good pay as they master welding fundamentals. They earn pay raises as they progress through the program. The apprentices are soon entitled to quality family healthcare. They will start building a 401K and a pension for their retirement.

“The UA VIP program stood out because of its potential for an apprenticeship placement in the UA upon completion of the program,” Massey said. “I next expect to continue to learn in a classroom setting as well as learn in real time on the job. I have always had an interest in the skilled trades and the VIP program seemed like a great opportunity.”

Transitioning active-duty service members become eligible to apply for the UA VIP program during their last 18 months of service. Training is available in welding, HVACR and fire sprinkler fitting at select military bases throughout the country. UA VIP training takes place during the last few months of a military member’s service commitment.

“Even if you have no welding experience, I encourage anyone interested to join the UA VIP program because you will learn everything you need to know in class,” Army Cpl. Savannah Mason said. “It’s a great program that sets you up for success when you get out.”


Learn more about the welding and HVACR UA VIP programs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.