After 18-weeks of classwork and hands-on training, seven sailors completed the first Veterans in Piping (VIP) program at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The course offered by the United Association of Union Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Technicians (UA) covered topics on heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R).
“I think it is a tremendous program, specifically, because it allowed us to be able to do this while we are still on active duty,” Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (Equipment) William Gierke said. “You don’t have the lag time between active duty and trying to figure it out once you’re out and trying to start a new career.”
Not only is there no lag time but the UA VIP program promises a career in the pipefitting industry with living wages and full benefits to those who complete the VIP program.
“Part of our guarantee for this program is to place them [the Sailor] with a contractor throughout the nation,” VIP instructor Robert Vilches said. “We do our best to get them at their number one choice for relocation. We make the phone call for them. The job is there waiting for them.”
“The HVAC community is extremely technical, much more than I would have guessed when I first came to it,” Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Harrison Hancock said. “This could be an amazing program for anyone getting out either retiring or separating.”
Upon successful completion of the training program, graduates are placed in a five-year paid UA apprenticeship program at one of more than 300 locations nationwide.