Union Seeks To Train Students For Free

LAKE CHARLES, LA (AP) — The region's welders and pipefitters union is seeking to train craftsmen for the industry work that will come online in the next few years — all at no cost to its students.

         Roy McGraw, training director of United Association Local 198, tells The American Press’ Frank DiCesare that individuals who want training in fields such as welding, plumbing and pipefitting, can pick up an application at the union's new facility.

         "The cost of our programs is zero," McGraw said. "Our members pay for them. The membership pays pennies per hour; everybody pays it to run the school."

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         Prospective students much have a high school diploma with transcripts or a GED with their test scores to be considered. They also must have a valid driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security card and must pass an aptitude test, which covers basic math and reading skills, and an interview with union representatives.

         "We ask them questions about what their interests are, what their hobbies are, career goals and what subjects did (they) like in school," McGraw said. "We also ask them if they worked after school or on vacation."

         Prospects are also asked to rate their overall health and if they have ever worked in confined spaces.

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         McGraw said previous experience is unnecessary for admission into the union's programs but he notes not everyone who applies will be accepted.

         "Our concern is that you don't want to train more than you can keep working because then you'll lose them," he said. "If you don't have work for them, they will quit."

         The union currently has 45 students enrolled in its 26,000-square-foot facility, which is located in the former Baker Hughes building. All students accepted into the program are required to join Local 198, McGraw said

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         Classes run at night six times a month for nine months for each five-year program.

         Students with previous work experience are eligible for class credit.

         To graduate from the union's program, students must complete 240 hours of classroom work a year and 8,500 hours of job site training in a five-year period, McGraw said.

         All graduates will be designated UA journeymen pipefitters and welders or state-licensed plumbers.

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