A group of Fort Carson soldiers traded their Kevlar helmets for building hardhats last week as part of a union-backed workout program to teach a trade to departing troops.
The Veterans in Piping program runs soldiers through an 18-week training workout program focused on welding while they're still in uniform. Graduates - including all 16 who finished the course here June 30 - land apprenticeships in the plumbing and piping trades when they end their military service.
" Eighteen weeks earlier, we showed up with little to no understanding of piping," said Fort Carson Sgt. Cyril Jones.
Run by the United Association - a union for plumbers, pipefitters and other trades - the classes are totally free to soldiers. The military, however, covers their incomes while the union teaches them four days a week, After training, the apprentices are initially in line for work in a field that's well-paid and includes medical insurance and a pension.
Fort Carson's Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Reiss stated the training workout program assists the Army prevent joblessness costs for departing troops and assists soldiers alleviate their shift to civilian life. The Pentagon has said it spends more than $1 billion yearly on unemployment benefits for veterans. "It's programs like this that attend to the problems veterans deal with," Reiss stated.
Ellen Golombek, who heads the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said the workout program also assists fight the higher rate of unemployment veterans have faced in the last few years prior to trending down in 2015.
"I am really grateful we are discovering careers for our veterans," Golombek stated. The pipefitter's program becomes part of a broader effort at Fort Carson, where troops can register for a number of training workout programs and internships while still in uniform. United Association training employer Michael Hazard stated the union gets great pipefitters and plumbers in exchange for the training expenditure.
"These are the very best applicants in the world," Hazard said.
The soldiers in the program have a long roadway ahead of them. Apprentices work for five years and undergo routine classroom training to achieve the title of journeyman.
Journeyman pipefitters and plumbers remain in high-demand and attract high wages, topping $40 per hour in some locations. Spc. Anthony Rocco stated his decision to end his army career with the union training program was easy.