The United Association Veterans in Piping (UA VIP) Program held an open house and graduation ceremony at the UA VIP classroom building on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Aug. 1.

The event commemorated the UA VIP Program's fifth anniversary at MCB Camp Lejeune and served to celebrate the graduation of the program's 13th welding class.

The UA VIP Program proudly partners with the military to provide free career skills training to active-duty transitioning military service members to prepare them for a career in the piping industry. Upon transition from the military, UA VIP graduates are guaranteed employment with a UA signatory contractor and direct entry into the UA’s five-year apprenticeship program in an agreed upon location nationwide.

“This 18-week course offers accelerated training in welding while they are still active duty,” said David Porter, instructor and administrator with United Association. “Service members get free skills training, industry recognized certifications, direct entry into UA apprenticeships and guaranteed job placement. Essentially they can leave the military with peace of mind because they will have a job.”

UA VIP has recently completed construction on their expanded classroom. They can now accept 20 students per class, instead of only 16.

“The new classroom is going to be great for the next class,” said Cpl. Daniel Queathem, a student with the UA VIP Program. “This program was really beneficial. There was no out of pocket expense. The school and tools were free.”

With UA VIP paying the $12,000-$15,000 fees and tool donations from DeWalt and Milwaukee tools, students have the chance to concentrate on their studies while they learn their new trade.

“Anyone who is serious about welding as a career does not want to miss out on this class,” said Sgt. Joe Karcher, another student in the program. “They will never get another opportunity like it.”

Anyone interested in the UA VIP program can consult with a career counselor at the career education building or stop by the UA VIP classroom, which is located next to the Auto Hobby shop on Birch Street.

“We, at the education center, are here to act as facilitator between the Marine or Sailor and their unit,” said Rick Bowman, education counselor with Marine Corps Community Services. “We offer three classes a year, and there is an interview process to get into the school. In order to apply, candidates have to be on the backside of their EAS and really want it.”