The eight graduates of Camp Pendleton Welding Class 36 have a bright future as union welders with good paying jobs and quality healthcare for their family. They owe it all to the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) Program, which taught them basic welding skills to prepare them for civilian careers in the pipe trades.
The UA VIP Program is an DOD Skillbridge program for military transitioning. The program provides a direct path to a UA registered apprenticeship program with guaranteed job placement after the military.
For U.S. Marine Cpl. Jack Alvarez, it was the opportunity to become a union welder that cemented his decision to join the program.
“I’ve always wanted to become a union worker,” Alvarez said. “But I just wasn’t sure about what trade to start. I wanted a more rewarding and successful career post military service. The UA VIP provided a great path forward.”
Over the course of 18-weeks, the students learned basic welding skills through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training alongside experienced journeyman instructors. They also earned industry recognized certifications that will accelerate their careers in the UA.
The students learned oxy fuel cutting, SMAW plate welding, SPAW and GTAW pipe welding and SMAW pipe spooling, among other techniques.
“The amount we have learned in the short time we’ve been students in the VIP course has surprised a lot of us,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Levi Dronen. “It has been eye opening to learn everything that goes into just one trade. It’s also been interesting learning about adjacent trades workers with whom we will shortly be working alongside.”
The DOD Skillbridge program takes place during the last few months of a military member’s service commitment. Transitioning active-duty service members become eligible for the UA VIP program during their last 18 months of enlistment.
Guaranteed job placement after the military
Now that the graduates have completed the UA VIP program, they will enter a UA registered apprenticeship program at an agreed upon location after they transition out of the military. They will earn a living wage and quickly be eligible for quality healthcare for themselves and their family. The veterans will earn pay raises as they progress their apprenticeship. They will start earning a pension and a 401K for their retirement.
Upon completion of their apprenticeships, they will become journeyman welders in an industry that has a high demand for jobs.
For Alvarez, the quality instruction he received in the United Association Veterans in Piping Program prepared him for his union career.
“In the past four years in the Marine Corps I have had countless instructors for all sorts of different things, but Jason Culkin and David Ramirez at Camp Pendleton’s UA VIP Program are seriously the best I have ever had!” Alvarez said. “They’re patient, understanding, passionate, and true Jedi’s when it comes to all things pipe fitting/welding. I really enjoyed this program!”
The UA VIP Program provides DOD Skillbridge program trainig for military members transitioning at select bases throughout the country.