Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ballejo is a picture of the success possible in the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) program.
After graduating from the program at Fort Carson in Welding Class 6, Ballejo transitioned out of the military and then successfully became a journeyman in 2020. Next, Ballejo became a UA VIP welding instructor at Fort Carson. He now teaches other transitioning active-duty service members how to weld in preparation for a civilian career in the pipe trades.
It’s relatable training, as Ballejo was in his students’ shoes just a few years ago when he began his UA VIP training.
“The UA VIP program taught me a trade skill so I could provide for my family,” Ballejo said. “It was stressful at first, but once I started working, it was great. I loved the Brotherhood and learning something new every day.”
Over the course of 18 weeks, Ballejo teaches his students how to weld through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. They earn industry recognized certifications in oxy fuel cutting, SMAW plate welding, SPAW and GTAW pipe welding and SMAW pipe spooling.
The UA VIP program provides a guaranteed civilian job
After his students graduate from the UA VIP program and transition out of the military, they go on to join a UA registered apprenticeship program at an agreed upon location. They will earn good union wages throughout their training and quickly become eligible for quality healthcare for their family. They will start building a pension and a 401K for their retirement. As their training progresses, they will receive pay raises at union scale.
Once UA VIP graduates become journeymen, they will have numerous opportunities for advancement. Some will continue to work for union contractors, including potentially as a foreman or a superintendent. Others will start their own businesses. Some, like Ballejo, will even become UA VIP instructors and teach others valuable skills key to a civilian career in the pipe trades.
Once he graduated from the program and transitioned out of the military, Ballejo joined (and is still a proud member of) Local 58 Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Service Techs.
“The UA VIP program guaranteed me a job when I retired from the Army, complete with health care, pension and good wage,” Ballejo said. “I won’t lose these benefits when I go from one contractor to another.”
Transitioning active-duty service members are eligible to apply to the UA VIP program during their last 18 months of military service. Training takes place while they are in the military and is considered part of their commitment to their country.
Training happens at select military bases across the country. Training is available in welding, HVACR and fire sprinkler fitting.
Ballejo would definitely recommend the UA VIP program to others.
“Do not let this opportunity pass you by,” Ballejo said. “Joining the UA VIP program was the best decision I made. I am thankful for what the UA VIP program has done for my transition. It has made me the journeyman I am today.”