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Pipefitters Union Investing in Transitioning Military Veterans to the Workforce

UA VIP graduates

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At Fort Sill, Oklahoma soldiers finishing their military service can now enter a program which will prepare them for a career in the civilian workforce as pipefitters.  The 18-week fire suppression sprinkler system program is held at the Ft. Sill Industrial Training Complex and is part of the United Association’s Veterans in Piping (VIP).  The program graduated its first class on July 7th. 

When they begin the program, soldiers are asked where they would ultimately like to work when they are discharged.  Sam Sanchez, the VIP’s program instructor, explained:

“We ask them where they want to relocate to and then we’ll pick contractors in that area that will hire them. And then, whenever they leave this course, they already have jobs waiting for them.”

Sanchez noted the demand for safety and pipe craftsmen:

These systems are used in high-rise buildings, nursing homes, residential, schools, everywhere. Every year the laws are getting more strict with life-safety systems and somebody has to install them, maintain them and service them.”

The program does not cost the soldiers anything. It is funded by the United Association’s International Training Fund and currently operates in all states except for Hawaii and Florida.

Spc. Timothy Moss, of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, is an example of how vital the program can be to transitioning veterans:

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life outside of the Army, and then I ran into this opportunity through the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program, and really I’m not even done with the program yet and I already love it.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics labels any military member active after September 2001 as a Gulf War era II veteran.  Within this group, unemployment was at 7.2 percent in 2014, above the national average for non-veterans (which was 5.6 percent at the time).  Making post-military employment more difficult to find is the fact that 29 percent of Gulf War era II veterans have service-related disabilities, compared to 16 percent of veterans in genera;.  

For Thomas Miller, manager of the ITC, filling each class to capacity is important to both the program and the future of those who have served their country honorably:

“My ultimate goal as the program manager is for every course at the ITC to be filled at 100 percent. Our mission at the ITC is about employment skills training that leads to opportunities for our Soldiers to gain meaningful employment prior to separating from their military service after serving their country honorably.”


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