Last month, Sargent James Wester of the EFSC, 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Striker Brigade Combat Team said goodbye to the U.S. Army – the only job he’s ever known – and began a career in welding. This was all thanks to TransCanada and the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry’s (UA), Veterans in Piping program (VIP).
“It was surreal to think that after almost a decade of service, I would be moving to Tennessee with my family to a civilian job that will keep me home,” says Wester.
The now U.S. Military Veteran joined the Plumbers and Steamfitters UA Local 43 in Chattanooga, Tennessee after a decade serving his country and multiple combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
“When I first decided to leave the Army, I had a panicked moment when I thought, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve never done anything else,’” says Wester. “Then I started questioning whether I should leave at all, but luckily a friend on my squad in Kuwait told me about the VIP program and when I got home I looked into it right away.”
The free VIP Program provides returning veterans with 16 weeks of accelerated welding training and two weeks of transitional training to help them adjust to civilian life – a process that can be especially difficult for those who joined the military right after high school.
More than 200 veterans have already been trained through VIP programs in Washington and California, as well as in Camp Williams, Wisconsin. Welding job opportunities are plentiful for those who are well-trained and highly skilled after the VIP intensive training program.
“The best part about the VIP program is that 95% of the training you do is hands-on. When I arrived, I went straight into my welding boots and started burning muscle memory. You get to just weld and earn years of experience in a matter of months.”
— Sargent James Wester
The VIP program partners with the Helmets to Hardhats program (H2H) to recruit qualified veterans. In 2013, TransCanada supported VIP by purchasing a specially outfitted mobile welding training trailer designed to educate armed forces veterans in the welding techniques and skills needed for pipeline construction work. The trailer is completely self-contained and features the pipeline industry’s very latest welding equipment and state-of-the-art technology. It’s one of 24 UA welding trailers that travel throughout North America offering welder training to apprentices and journeymen anywhere in the United States and Canada.
TransCanada’s partnership with the UA and H2H is part of a company-wide strategy that supports innovative programs throughout North America to honor military veterans and assist them in their transition into a civilian career. We are grateful to those who have served and are also dedicated to contributing to training the skilled laborers required to complete many key construction jobs in the U.S. These include the Keystone and Houston Lateral projects and proposed projects in the U.S., like Keystone XL.
TransCanada also believes honoring our veterans includes supporting opportunities for communities to recognize their sacrifice. We are proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for the 51st Annual Milwaukee Veterans Day Parade and Day of Honor that begins at the Milwaukee War Memorial on Saturday, November 8th.
“It’s just a tremendous boost for our Veterans. It’s their day, and it’s just great to have the community at large remember what they’ve done for everyone and our freedoms.”
— Warren Skonieczny, Milwaukee Veterans Day Parade Board of Director
Click here to learn more about the event and view the parade map.