Union takes welding on the road to attract workers

Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2008, 11:53 pm
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The state's largest union for plumbers and steamfitters is spending $200,000 to encourage more people to take up welding as a career.

A report by Iowa Workforce Development earlier this year projects that there will be a shortfall of about 1,500 welders in Iowa over the next five years, and according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation will be short 120,000 welders by 2016.

Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 in Des Moines hopes to close that gap by attracting more people to the profession. The union became the first local in its national association to own a mobile training facility.

The 53-foot long semitrailer has eight welding bays that instructors can take to job sites around the state and certify journeyman welders. It's expected that the mobile training trailer will save money and time for union members and their employers by eliminating travel to Des Moines.

Union officials also say it's expected to have a high public relations value because people will see close up what welding is like.

'It's a great tool to give our membership advanced skill training,' said Dave Owen, apprenticeship coordinator for Local 33. 'There's a boom right now in the industrial area for pipe fitting and pipe welding. There's just a shortage of workers.'

Responses from the Iowa Workforce Development survey show that 49,000 jobs in Iowa were expected to be vacant by the end of his year. During the next six years, about 600,000 Iowans will be eligible to retire.

Union officials say as many as 500 welders will be working for up to four years on a planned Alliant Energy power plant in Marshalltown. They say welders are needed in traditional industries and high-tech jobs.

Officials say companies, such as Microsoft and Google, need welded pipes for their cooling systems.

'The state of Iowa has been really good at attracting new infrastructure and industry into the state,' union business manager Greg Foshe said.

New welders are expected to come from an 18-week course run by the union and from a welding program at Des Moines Area Community College.

Kenny Herring, 25, of Indianola, said he turned to Local 33 after several years of working 'dead-end' jobs in landscaping. Welders can earn between $12 and $30 per hour.

'I needed a raft,' Herring said. 'I needed something that would put me in a place I wouldn't be otherwise.

'You can do this nationwide,' he said. 'Opportunities are endless.'


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