Army Sgt. John McKoin is grateful for his experience in the United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) program because it has allowed him to provide for his family after leaving the military.
“I don’t believe I would have accomplished this much without the help of the UA and the UA VIP program,” he said. “The most important thing to me is my family. The ability to provide for them is more valuable than I can put into words.”
The UA VIP program is a DOD Skillbridge Program for transitioning active-duty service members. It provides a guaranteed job after the military through a UA registered apprenticeship program and teaches key skills to begin a career in the pipe trades.
McKoin began his UA VIP training in Fort Campbell’s Accelerated Pipe Trades Class 1 in 2019. Over the course of 15-weeks, he trained alongside an experienced journeyman instructor through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training.
“My UA VIP class was the first Fort Campbell pilot program,” he said. “We had plenty of hands-on time. The UA VIP program definitely prepared me for the jobs I later encountered in the UA. It has given me the skills, direction and opportunities I needed to provide for my family.”
McKoin was attracted to the program because it did not require him to use his G.I. Bill and provided him the opportunity to improve himself in a new brotherhood. He found the skills he developed in the military served him well in his new career.
“The general skills that are highly valued in the military such as discipline, timeliness, and personnel responsibility have helped me, and other UA VIP students, stand out amongst our peers,” he said.
Transitioning active-duty service members are invited to apply to the UA VIP program during their last six months of service. Training takes place during a student’s enlistment period and is considered part of their military commitment. UA VIP training is available in welding, HVACR and fire sprinkler fitting at select military bases across the country.
UA VIP Program: The foundation for a good paying civilian career
After McKoin completed his UA VIP training and transitioned out of the military, he began a UA registered apprenticeship program through Pipefitters Local 533 in Kansas City. He earned good union pay and was quickly eligible for quality health insurance for his family. He began earning a pension and a 401K for his retirement. He also earned annual pay raises as he advanced his training and progressed through the program.
Today, McKoin is in the fourth year of his apprenticeship and works for U.S. Engineering. He regularly welds carbine, pvc and pex tubing.
McKoin would highly recommend the UA VIP program to any transitioning active-duty service member looking for the next step in their career.
“If you want to work with your hands and your mind, provide a good lifestyle for your family and advance on your own merit, this is a great path for you,” he said. “I couldn't recommend it more highly.”