On March 10, 2014, the first active-duty soldiers accepted into a new program will start their training at the U.S. Army’s Ft. Hood, TX base, and 18 weeks later they will emerge with a skill that is in high demand all across North America. The training is part of the Veterans in Piping (VIP) program, established by the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinklerfitters and Service Technicians (UA). The participants are active-duty soldiers who are transitioning out of the Army onto a career path that will enable them to provide for their families, even as they develop even more critical skills through the UA’s apprenticeship program.
The soldiers will receive 18 weeks of accelerated welding training, which will take place in two UA welding trailers set up on the base, with an instructor dedicated to the program. The VIP program offers both skills training and job placement in the piping industry to U.S. veterans and active-duty military personnel preparing to leave the service. Participants earn industry-recognized certifications and college credit as part of their training. They also gain direct entry into apprenticeship programs following graduation from the VIP program. In most cases, upon leaving the service, VIP graduates are able to relocate to the area of their choice. The training these service members receive is absolutely free. All funding comes from the United Association International Training Fund, a management and labor cooperative fund.
United Association General President William P. Hite initiated the VIP program in 2008 to address two important issues: (1) an exceedingly high unemployment rate among America’s veterans, despite their being a disciplined and highly trainable population; and (2) a growing shortage in the construction industry of skilled workers due to the combined effects of an aging workforce, increased demand, and a lack of skills training for youth.
“It was simply the right thing to do,” he has said, and the Military Officers Association of America agreed, giving the program it’s Distinguished Service Award in 2011.
To date, hundreds of veterans and active-duty personnel have participated in VIP programs at U.S. Army Joint Base Lewis McChord in Lacey, Washington, U.S. Marine Corps Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA, and U.S. Army Base Ft. Carson, CO.
About the UA: The United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinklerfitters and HVACR Service Technicians represents approximately 370,000 skilled piping professionals in North America and Australia. The UA established the first nationally registered joint apprenticeship program in the United States, dating back to 1936. With the VIP program, the UA has partnered with the U.S. military to help improve the lives of returning veterans, their families and the national economy.