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Local 25 supports Veterans in Piping program, accepts third candidate for apprenticeship

Whether they serve during times of peace or turmoil, men and women in the United States military receive basic training that instills in them the core traits of teamwork, structure, discipline and a focus on mission. When these veterans retire from active duty, many face a period of adjustment while transitioning to a more laid-back civilian lifestyle. They can feel as if they no longer fit in, or feel lost with no real sense of purpose in their new day-to-day routine.

Davenport native Sean Condon, Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Petty Officer (AD3), can relate. “The hardest thing about the transition is that I’m home, and I’ve only been home for a week or two-week increments during the last four years,” he said. “So, I’m home, but feel like I have to be somewhere in two weeks. Everything feels rushed.”

Another issue returning veterans face is an increasingly high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the American population.

In 2008, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA) created the Veterans in Piping (VIP) program in response to unemployment among ex-military, as well as to address the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry. The program, which offers 18-week accelerated courses in HVACR and welding free of charge to VIP participants, is designed to equip military service members with marketable skills to prepare them for always in-demand trade careers. The program advertises a powerful motto: “They were trained to protect our country. We’re training them to build it.”

Currently, the UA VIP program is offered at nine military bases across the country.

According to Matt Lienen, training coordinator at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 25 — the local UA affiliate in Rock Island — the organization recently accepted Condon as its third VIP candidate. The first two candidates, Wayne Walston and Kandace Hocker, began their apprenticeships in 2015.

“Local 25 Plumbers & Pipefitters is proud to support our nation’s veterans and we welcome our third UA VIP into our apprenticeship program,” Lienen said. “Military personnel deserve a successful transition from military duty to the civilian workforce and the United Association has created a model training program that affords them this opportunity. The UA VIP program builds the foundation for a successful apprenticeship and career which will allow them to make a positive impact on our community for years to come.”

Condon, 24, spent four years at Naval Base Norfolk. When he became aware of the VIP program through a transition assistance program, he quickly registered and received 720 hours of free training in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR). In June, he will begin his apprenticeship at the Davenport location of Hussmann Corporation, a leader in refrigeration systems.

“Going through the VIP program, I automatically get put in as a second-year apprentice instead of a first-year, so that’s one of the perks of the program to help out the military,” Condon said.

“Any program that’s like this, this is the only one that’s 100 percent free, and it’s the only one that guarantees you a job directly after you get out of the service,” he continued. “The UA has taken a lot of stress off me for what I need to do — I’ve already got a job, so that’s taken care of.”