ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A successful partnership that trains veterans for, and places them in, careers in the plumbing and pipefitting industry is expanding to Wisconsin, according to William P. Hite, general president of the United Association (UA) of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. Hite signed a memorandum of agreement with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the Department of Workforce Development to bring the Veterans in Piping program to Camp Douglas.

Veterans in Piping, or VIP, offers 20 weeks of training necessary to become an apprentice, including two intensive weeks of transitional reintegration and work readiness to help veterans return to civilian life. Job placement is guaranteed upon successful completion, and the training is free.

“Our service members give so much to our country,” Hite said. “We want to ensure they have the training and support necessary for a successful career, and life, after their time in the military. Our vision of making the Veterans in Piping program available to men and women nationwide is happening with this much-anticipated expansion to Wisconsin. We are honored to have the hardworking and dedicated veterans of the U.S. military as members of our UA family.”

“This is a great opportunity for Wisconsin, in partnership with the UA, to reach out to our veterans and offer them a new career opportunity,” said Kenneth G. Grant, director of the Office of Veterans Services at the Department of Workforce Development. “Through each of the state job centers, we are notifying service members of this program and working with them to become eligible students.”

Camp Douglas is the third VIP site nationwide. The first is in conjunction with the Washington National Guard, Workforce Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs with support from Washington Governor Chris Gregoire. That program has graduated 96 veterans since August 2008.

VIP launched in March 2009 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., training active Marines before their discharge. That initiative has trained 90 veterans. The training costs the UA between $20,000 and $25,000 per person. Funding comes from the UA International Training Fund, created by a contribution of 10 cents per hour by working members.

Russell Kies is one of 16 veterans who will be a member of the inaugural class in January. He is eager to get started. “The union and the military train front-line leaders, they have people standing next to you that you can go to for help,” Kies said. “They both train hard.”

Mike Arndt, director of training for the UA, is pleased to offer the training Kies will experience, to veterans in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. “We are delighted to have the VIP program expanding to this very strategic area of the country.”

Approximately 2 million of the nation’s veterans have served since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The unemployment rate for those veterans tops 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 had an unemployment rate of more than 21 percent, twice that of the veterans who served in the same era but are older, ages 25 to 34.

“Historically, our veterans have always been underemployed,” said Anne St. Eloi, UA special representative for training. “If they can find work, it’s usually something low-paying that doesn’t match any of the skills they’ve learned in the military. That needs to change - and that’s why General President Hite has created the VIP Program.”

“The UA VIP Program gives veterans the skills to succeed and provides direct placement into our industry for our nation’s heroes,” said Terry Hayden, business manager of UA Local 434 in central and western Wisconsin.

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Publication date:01/10/2011