Thousands of service members transition out of the military yearly. Countless resources and programs are available to further prepare active-duty military personnel as they prepare to enter civilian life.

One program, Veterans In Piping (VIP), is a pathway into an apprenticeship with the United Association (UA), a union of plumbers, fitters, welders and service techs, that offers high-quality skills training and jobs in the pipe trades to active-duty military who are about to leave the service.

“The program started as a veteran’s model for people who had already transitioned out,” said David Porter, VIP instructor. “In 2009, we started a pilot program in Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for active-duty service members.”

The 18-week program consists of accelerated training in highly-marketable skills such as welding, fire sprinkler fitting and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R).

The program and the state-of-the-art equipment is funded through the UA. The VIP program was the first of 13 skill bridge programs established on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“There are nine of these programs in seven different bases across the country,” Porter said. “Six are welding focused, like here in MCB Camp Lejeune; two are HVAC-R programs and one is a sprinkler fitting program.”

The UA VIP Program gives a unique opportunity for transitioning military service members to move into a career in high demand so they can better support themselves and their family. VIP participants earn industry-recognized certifications and a direct entry into secure private-sector jobs with good pay and benefits.

“The program is a great opportunity,” said Sgt. Cody Lemons, a videographer with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. “Once you graduate the program, it’s a 100 percent job placement. So no matter what, everyone who graduates will have a job when they get home.”

For more information about the program, visit www.uavip.org, or stop by the UA VIP classroom, located next to the Auto Hobby Shop on Birch Street on Camp Lejeune.