Ironworkers Clamor for Final Spots in Welding Course at the Union’s Benicia, Calif., Training Center

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Certified Welding Instructor (CWI) Prep & Recertification Courses filled well before the class’s registration deadline, despite the California Department of Transportation’s claim late last year that a “shortage” of welders and welding inspectors has forced the state to hire foreign workers to complete welding jobs, notably on the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Iron Workers Union, with the help of the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), also provides a CWI Prep course in St. Louis.

Our work, the critical welds, is often subject to x-ray or ultrasound testing to make sure it is acceptable.

Certified Welding Instructor (CWI) Prep & Recertification Courses filled well before the class’s registration deadline, despite the California Department of Transportation’s claim late last year that a “shortage” of welders and welding inspectors has forced the state to hire foreign workers to complete welding jobs, notably on the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Iron Workers Union, with the help of the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), also provides a CWI Prep course in St. Louis.

Welding is one of the most demanding skills that an Ironworker can learn. This is true, at least, according to Brian Colombo, Apprenticeship Coordinator for Iron Workers Locals #377 and #378 in the San Francisco Bay area.

Colombo qualified his statement rather convincingly, “You’re probably looking at six months of 40-hour weeks to earn the welding certifications that are most commonly used on a typical job.”

While the rigor of the job hasn’t put a damper on Ironworkers’ fervor to learn the nuances of this difficult profession, it has compelled the Iron Workers Union to train the qualified instructors needed to teach this most difficult skill. The Union’s 40-hour Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) & Recertification Course, offered at the Benicia, Calif., training center (the same course is also offered at the Local #396 Training Center in St. Louis) is a necessary component in meeting this demand.

The CWI course prepares students to go forward and take the American Welding Society’s Certified Welding Instructor Exam, a three-part test focusing on the welding codebook and welding fundamentals. The test also includes a hands-on segment.

“The codebook alone is nearly 600 pages, written by engineers for engineers,” Colombo explained. “People that have passed have really achieved something.”

Ironworkers who pass the test become Certified Welding Instructors, and, according to Colombo, “bring incredible value to our signatory contractors, because these guys know all aspects of the work.” Workers can function in a dual capacity as both Ironworker and inspector, whereas many contractors without access to qualified inspectors must foot the bill to hire out for inspections. “The Ironworkers cut out a huge expense for contractors. Ironworkers who pass the test and become a CWI bring a much better understanding of the entire welding process, metallurgy and welder training.”

Welders have to maintain incredibly sharp analytical and physical skills to do their jobs. “When you’re fusing two pieces of metal together, there is no room for error or for any voids in your welds. One mistake can lead to disaster.” To demonstrate the precision Ironworker welders maintain, Colombo added, “Our work, the critical welds, is often subject to x-ray or ultrasound testing to make sure it is acceptable.”

This unique course, which filled early this year, saw some interested Ironworkers turned away due its tremendous popularity.

The Ironworkers of Locals #377 and #378 maintain the highest standards in Ironworker training and upgrading, as do all Iron Workers local unions throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to local training courses in and around Benicia, the Iron Workers International Union, in conjunction with Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust and the Apprenticeship and Training Department, hold an annual week-long training program in Ann Arbor, Mich., for Ironworker instructors and provide $50 million each year to Ironworker training centers across North America.

About IMPACT:
The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (http://www.impact-net.org) was formed in 2003 under Section 302(c) 9 of the Labor-Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act. IMPACT is a non-profit, tax-exempt labor-management trust under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. The primary mission of IMPACT is to expand job opportunities for union ironworkers and their signatory contractors through progressive and innovative labor-management programs, training and safety. IMPACT is governed by a 26-member Board of Trustees. Each of IMPACT’s 13 regions is represented by one labor trustee and one management trustee.

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Brennan Gamwell
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