North Central / Regional Reports

Mobile Unit Rolled Out to Address Skilled Welder Shortage

October 20, 2008
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DES MOINES, Iowa - America is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled welders. To ensure the ongoing success of Iowa’s construction efforts, United Association Local Union 33 is striving to train more welders, more quickly - with no reduction in their skill levels - and has acquired a special mobile unit to assist in recruitment and training.

“We now offer a Hybrid Welding Program that provides apprentices with the skills they need to join the welding workforce in 18 weeks,” said Greg Foshe, business manager of Local 33. “To let potential welders know what the program holds in store for them, we will be taking the mobile unit to future employment events.”

The mobile unit is a trailer containing eight welding booths, in which visitors can see workplace skills in action. According to Foshe, the mobile unit will visit schools and community colleges in the Des Moines area and throughout central and western Iowa - Local 33’s jurisdiction as a local union. Welding instructors will be on hand for demonstrations. “We want visitors who have just seen a demonstration to think, ‘Hey, I’d like to do that!’” Foshe said.

The 18-week Hybrid Welding Program may be short, Foshe added, but it doesn’t shortchange the apprentices. “It’s a concentrated learning experience,” he said. “Apprentices attend class for eight hours per day, 40 hours per week.”

WELL WORTH THE INVESTMENT

Local 33 purchased the mobile unit for more than $200,000 - an expense that is well worth the investment, Foshe stated. “Bringing in new welding apprentices is a top priority for the construction industry,” he said. He added that the mobile unit is also used as a training facility for journeyman workers who have successfully completed their apprenticeships and now work on jobsites.

“The mobile unit is helping us to upgrade the skills of journeymen welders and provide them with testing certification on jobsites so they can perform specific procedures,” Foshe said. “Having a training facility on wheels saves a lot of time - and in construction, time is money.”

Once welding apprentices have successfully completed the 18-week Hybrid Welding Program, they are eligible to enter the Local’s five-year apprenticeship program as second-year apprentices. In addition to welding, Local 33 apprentices receive training in plumbing, heating, air conditioning, medical gas, high purity piping, water treatment, and other specialties.

According to Foshe, apprentices in Local 33’s five-year training program earn hourly wages while they learn their craft. “The apprenticeship program offers a viable alternative to taking out huge college loans,” he said. In the five-year program, apprentices spend 246 hours in classroom training and 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training with contractors. “Working with the contractors prepares apprentices for real-world situations,” Foshe said. Once skilled welders enter the work force, their job prospects are excellent. The recent Yahoo.com article, “10 Great Careers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” listed welder as No. 9. According to the article, “Welding is all new and hotter than ever, thanks to increased manufacturing of technology, the need for welding in numerous high-tech industries, and newer, cleaner methods that have revolutionized welding.”

The current skilled welder shortage offers an ongoing challenge to the construction industry, and Foshe believes the efforts of Local 33 will continue to help Iowa in the years to come. “We want to make sure tomorrow’s welders are learning their skills today,” he said.

For more information, visit the Local 33 Website at www.ualocal33.org.

Publication date: 10/20/2008

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