Jamison Atchley, one of the most recent graduates from the United Association’s (UA) Veterans in Piping (VIP) HVACR (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration) program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), stated, “I feel very fortunate to be in this union,” and he meant it. As his grandparents, mom, cousins and mother-in-law (his wife is still deployed) looked on, Brother Atchley accepted his certificate that confirmed his completion of the UA’s first, on-base HVACR class for active-duty military. The class successfully graduated 10 apprentices on August 20, 2013. Brother Atchley is looking forward to working for Johnson Controls and to joining the membership of Local 290 in Portland, Oregon.
According to Kip Bagley, Vice President of Service for Emcor Service/Mesa Energy Systems, HVACR contractors have been feeling the pressure due to the lack of qualified candidates necessary to fill the void from the impending baby boomers’ retirement. He stated, “The UA has created an outstanding pipeline to get talented newcomers who have honorably served our country and who possess sufficient HVACR training to understand the field and its rigorous demands.”
As a contractor representative, Mr. Bagley is part of the panel that interviews the program candidates. “I have interviewed many technicians over the years, but I’ve rarely had the good fortune to meet so many high-potential applicants as those veterans I met who are applying for entry into this program,” he said. “In finding new technicians, I’ve often felt that you should ‘hire the attitude’ and ‘teach the skill,’ but these men and women are exactly what our industry has been looking for.”
Justin Adam is headed to Local 211 in Houston, Texas, and will be working for Emcor. “The program got very in-depth,” he said. “This is a completely different side of HVACR than I was accustomed to in the military. HVACR was my primary job, but my experience was drawn from my deployments. It was a little overwhelming in the beginning, but we had great instruction, and after 18 weeks, we all have a strong grasp now. I am looking forward to my apprenticeship, where I will be learning at night and out in the field during the day. I will be able to apply the skills that I acquire during the day. That just seems like a perfect match to me.”
As word of the program has started to infiltrate JBLM, the program is becoming increasingly more competitive. Kwiho Park, a first-generation immigrant, is so thankful for the program. He will be headed to Local 250 in Los Angeles and will be working for Emcor Service/Mesa Energy Systems. “When I looked around on the first day of my interview, there were quite a few people in the room waiting to go in,” he said. “I don’t think there is another program like this in the country. I mean, what program gives you accelerated training, works hard to place you in an area that you would want to be, guarantees employment, and trains you while you are earning a great wage. Even my friends who have a degree have not been able to find a program like this. I just started to pray that I would be accepted, and I was. It will mean a great life for my wife and me.”
“I cannot think of a better way for the UA and contractors to support our military,” stated Bob Lake, President, Emcor Service/Mesa Energy Systems and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America. “As a contractor, you’re getting a mature, disciplined employee who chooses the HVACR industry, wants to work in your geographic area, and has completed his first year of apprenticeship equivalence through the VIP program. It's almost like it’s too good to be true. We have already hired two VIP HVACR graduates and plan on being active in this program forever.”
Nathan Tiemeier, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, is moving back to Ohio with his family. He will be greeted by the members of Local 162 in Dayton, Ohio, and will be working for Emcor/DeBra-Kuempel. He stated that after 20 years in the Army, he would be starting his life when everyone else was having his or her mid-life crisis. He took an aptitude test, and realized he wanted to work with his hands. Everything he looked at required five years of experience. He stated that no matter how much he tweaked his resume that experience just was not there. He sat in on an information session about the VIP program, and he was hooked immediately. During the graduation ceremony, he gave a heartfelt testimonial.
“Over the past 18 weeks, William has been able to teach us and help us understand, not only the knowledge that will help us do our job, but also about the organization we’re joining. The UA’s Veterans In Piping program has been an excellent opportunity for me to find entrance to a career that will be satisfying and well paying. That, in conjunction with JBLM serving as the first location for transitioning soldiers, has made my transition from active duty to civilian life seamless. Along the way, we have had tremendous support from numerous people from many different organizations. Whether it was Donnie Braun from the UA connecting us with employers, or Kristen Johnson from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs helping us as we reached our transition point, or senior officers and non-commissioned officers of the Army checking in on us, and even our Senators who kept inquiring about us—we have had tremendous support throughout. The VIP program has given us the opportunity to transition directly into a career with knowledge that can immediately be put to use. This program has relieved me of the stress and uncertainty that many veterans face as they transition to civilian life. To my brothers and sisters in arms for the last 20 years, I will never forget you. The learning and experiences we shared will forever be in my heart. To my brothers and sisters of the UA, I look forward to the next 20 years growing and learning beside you—thank you. Army strong, UA all the way.”