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Marine sergeant credits VIP program for success in civilian workforce

Marine Sgt. Nicolas Alvarado began his new career as a welder when he transitioned out of the military in 2021. 

Prior to leaving the military, Alvarado enrolled in the UA VIP program in late 2020 where he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. 

The VIP program is a DOD SkillBridge program that allows military members preparing to leave the service to learn new skills that will lead to a fulfilling career in the pipe trades. It teaches students through a combination of hands-on training and classroom instruction. 

Alvarado said the VIP program helped prepare him for life after the military by giving him the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the civilian workforce. 

“The transition was a lot smoother than I thought it would be,” he said. “Transitioning from the military is a huge step, but knowing I had job placement and a jumpstart into a large career field made it immensely smoother.”Nicolas

While there are several Career Skills and SkillBridge programs available, very few offer guaranteed job placement like VIP. Besides the guaranteed job placement, there were other factors that stood out to Alvarado. 

“It is one of very few, if any, SkillBridge programs that does not take any of your GI bill,” he said. 

He added that after graduating from the program, graduates gain entry into a United Association Local Union, where they will begin their apprenticeship. 

After transitioning out of the military, Alvarado joined UA Local 421 in Raleigh, NC. He felt the VIP program accurately prepared him for the jobs that he has encountered. After arriving, Alvarado began working right away. 

Alvarado is now in the last year of his UA apprenticeship and will soon turn out as a Journeyman. 

Alvarado has worked on chiller shutdown, hanger renovations, gas lines and other common pipefitting and welding projects.

Alvarado said he has not had many encounters on the jobsite that the VIP program did not prepare him to handle. 

“There have honestly not been many instances,” he said. “The VIP program gives you a great foundation to build on.”

Alvarado recommends the VIP program to his friends and other active-duty transitioning service members who are looking to start a rewarding civilian career. 

“This is one of the best choices I’ve ever made for myself and my family,” he said. “The Brotherhood and Sisterhood doesn’t go away when you leave the service and go into the UA. It continues on in our union. The benefits are great. The work is challenging but rewarding.”

UA VIP program info

UA VIP graduates are guaranteed job placement into a DOL-registered UA apprenticeship program after graduating and transitioning out of the military.  

After successfully completing the apprenticeship training, graduates turn out as journeymen which gives them even more career path opportunities to expand their careers. 

UA VIP offers nine programs held at seven locations throughout the country. The program offers training to help service members begin a new career in welding, HVACR or fire suppression. 

Individuals interested in applying for the program do not need to be stationed at one of the bases in order to apply. 

All active duty transitioning service members are encouraged to apply on the website.