Union Welding Apprentice
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  1. #1

    Union Welding Apprentice

    Hello all ,

    I just wanted to hear some stuff form those who did or are currently going through an apprenticeship for a union. I am currently in the service but will be exiting later this year and am looking into hopefully starting a career as a welder. I know very little about the specifics of welding but I am very good with my hands, I work hard, and I strive to go above and beyond in whatever I do. So does anybody have any insight as far as what I should expect?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    72

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    I went through the iron workers apprenticeship. From working in a couple of different areas of the country and talking to different trades your apprentice experience is going to depend on what local you join. In my apprenticeship we went to class starting in September all the way till the end of May every Tuesday and Wednesday from 5pm to 8pm for three years.

    We had welding every 3rd class. We started with 6010 rod on flat plate and the progressed to t joints starting in 1g then 3g and then 4g. Once you went through all the positions with 6010 rod you repeated the process with 7018. After that you moved on to your 3g D 1.1 and 4g D 1.1 tests. Once you passed them you had the option to test for whatever you wanted which most people normally did stainless then NR 233. If you didn't get all the certs what you wanted within the three year period of apprentice school you are allowed to come back and test.

    In the other two classes we learned about stuff related to the different skills in the field such as rebar, rigging, cranes, structural steel, blueprint reading, layout, ect. We had different books for each topic and we worked our way through each book. We normally did a chapter each class with a test at the end of each class. Every test then got filed. At the end of the apprenticeship we were required to pass a general knowledge test, a rigging test, a rebar test, and a knot test. We also had a work hour requirement that needed to be filled each year or you did not get your pay scale moved up to the next apprentice level.

    So that was the school aspect of the program. Working in the field as an apprentice is where you are going to be learning the most. When you get sent out as an apprentice there is a different expectation and depending on what year apprentice you are will also impact this. Generally speaking an apprentice is the one that is going to be running around all day helping the more experienced workers and doing the grunt work. The main reason for this is to keep the apprentice out of the more dangerous situations and it enables them to see the different aspects of a job site and start to learn what everyone is doing. It is also a good way to find out if you are actually there to work or not. I was on a job for 6 months my first year starting at 7 to 9:30 all I did was carry gas cans, fill welding machines, move bolt kegs, swap out the empty oxygen or acetylene bottles and other busy work like that. That took me from the start of the day till break. Then after break I would rotate between the different gangs each week learning the each aspect of the trade.

    Edit to add-
    I realized I didn't really touch on the welding aspect of being an apprentice. From my experience with the iron workers you are not going to be doing a lot of welding until you pass a D 1.1 test. The first thing that we get asked for when going to a job is for a certification with a CWI stamp showing we passed a 3g and 4g D 1.1 test and that it is within the last 6 months or you have a continuity log that is up to date. Depending on the job you are still going to have to take a test to weld. Now depending on who you are working for if the welding is not structural and does not get inspected generally the apprentices are the ones that get to do it in order to get extra welding practice. The most common example would be tacking items in place that get welded later. I really like welding so I spent a lot of time talking about it with the guys at work so they really went out of their way to show me things and get me extra practice. It was not until I passed my tests and was sent out to weld that I really even started to remotely understand welding. I may have gotten lucky or they didn't want to have to fix my screw ups but all of the more experienced guys really went out of their way to make me better. I would say I burned more rod in the first two weeks I got sent out to weld as opposed to all the time I spent in the booth in class. Kind of puts into perspective just how important putting in the practice time is.
    Last edited by TheWeldingConnector; 12-07-2018 at 02:11 PM.
    I play with sticks
    Trailblazer 325 EFI w/ Excel Power, LN-25, Power Mig 210 MP, AlphaTig 200X

  3. #3

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    thank you for this information I appreciate it. I wouldn't say I'm worried but Im just a little nervous because I don't know much about all of this its new to me. But I hope with keeping my head down, staying focused and doing everything I can to learn the trade ill be okay.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    72

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    Coming from the military you should be fine. You will also want to take a look at https://helmetstohardhats.org/
    I play with sticks
    Trailblazer 325 EFI w/ Excel Power, LN-25, Power Mig 210 MP, AlphaTig 200X

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    new york city
    Posts
    6,144

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    don't be nervous. everything you need to know will be shown to you. if you apply yourself and stick with it you can expect to meet a great bunch of guys and do lots of interesting stuff then at the end,a great retirement.
    i.u.o.e. # 15
    queens, ny and sunny fla

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Posts
    37

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    I did something similar 20 years ago, I went with the Pipefitters, we have it a bit different in Alaska, 2 months class and then you work for 10. We also learn other skills like print reading, layout, Pipefitting, plumbing, brazing, rigging, a whole bunch of safety and the list goes on.

    No regrets today, and in fact it has done me very well, but there are many days in the begining you sure question your choices

    The helmets to hard hats that was mentioned earlier, check it out, please

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Posts
    36

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    I went into the helmet to hard hats program in Canada and am in the UA (pipefitters, plumbers, welders) I've got five months left in my apprenticeship so I can try and offer you some insight.

    I went to welding school before i joined (it wasnt a plan but just kind of happened that way). The thing about welding is you either have it or you don't, im not saying that to be a dick, you probably have it if youre a good shot, this may sound weird but i felt like there was a link between the hand eye co-ordination i was using welding and shooting. I asked the owner of the welding school i was at about it and it turns out he was hobby pistol target shooter who did competitions, he agreed, cant explain it but you use the same attention to detail (aiming small) in shooting as you do in welding, feel tired the same way from concentrating the same way you would on the range. It may be worth finding a machine somewhere and running a few rods though.

    Every local is different, the unions are big organizations but the locals are completely autonomous, at least in Canada they all have their own seperate retirement plans, everything. So one persons experience isnt going to be the same as another somewhere else.

    No one seems to tell you this but you should consider yourself working for the local instead of the company. I've noticed union companies lay people off at the drop of a hat, consequently the management on the company side of union companies seems to suck since they can just downscale the whole company and then rev back up between projects. Its just my observation, like i said people in other areas can have completely different experiences. But be prepared for doing your best and getting laid off even if you were batting way above your weight because they see you as an apprentice and not neccesarily working at what ever level you were operating at. I should say I'm laid off right now and need 500 hours, which isnt a lot, so its probably colouring my views but I got all my tickets to be a journeyman in my first year and spent the next two welding in position on sites (started out a bit slow) but was producing fine with a bit of experience and my last conversation with a company was trying to convince a guy that as an apprentice i could weld in position (welding a pipe on the bottom and all over without being able to move it, if that makes sense). Theres also a lot of nepotism but I think its the same anywhere, although instead of dealing with the bosses one kid there seems to be family dynasties that you probably dont want to piss off, same as family businesses i guess but bigger scale.

    In the long term I think its a good move no matter what, around me welding jobs only pay half what a journeyman makes (less if you take into account benefits), so being laid off a bit shouldnt matter.

    Well anyways hope this gives you some insight, best of luck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    n.w. of chicago
    Posts
    537

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    Ex-diver ^^^^^ said it like it is pretty much, well spoken,

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    72

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    I don't know about other unions but from what I have seen with the iron workers, in 5+ territories I have worked, once you are out of your apprenticeship the nepotism is a little less a factor. It will always be there and is a big part of unions but I found it less noticeable as a journeymen. It might take some time but generally the best guys get the most work.

    **Edit to add **
    Working for the local is completely true. We put our local as the employer when filling out loan applications. We were told from the beginning that our business agent is our boss and the foremen work for him.
    Last edited by TheWeldingConnector; 12-13-2018 at 06:23 PM.
    I play with sticks
    Trailblazer 325 EFI w/ Excel Power, LN-25, Power Mig 210 MP, AlphaTig 200X

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    bar stool
    Posts
    2,103

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    Mnay Locals and Business Agents have come to understand the Local is an operation akin to Manpower. The understanding of that reality is largely a function of how many men are on the bench.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Posts
    36

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    Quote Originally Posted by TheWeldingConnector View Post
    I don't know about other unions but from what I have seen with the iron workers, in 5+ territories I have worked, once you are out of your apprenticeship the nepotism is a little less a factor. It will always be there and is a big part of unions but I found it less noticeable as a journeymen. It might take some time but generally the best guys get the most work.

    **Edit to add **
    Working for the local is completely true. We put our local as the employer when filling out loan applications. We were told from the beginning that our business agent is our boss and the foremen work for him.
    Thanks thats great to know, I was worried I'd come off as a whiney apprentice but I try to give an honest awnser but didnt know how it would come across, at this point I cant wait for the apprenticeship to be over, the welding apprenticeship is really new where i am and the label is keeping me from getting hired.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    8,396

    Re: Union Welding Apprentice

    Thank you for your service ! I've done the UNION Pipefitter apprenticeship. Now 68 I've been in the union 48 years and collecting my pension since I was 60. The UNITED ASSOCIATION is the way to go. The local unions that belong are almost in every state and many are reciprocal. So once you become a journeyman you can travel to another state to work on a travel card. You don't lose anything however each local has different wage /benefit packages.
    Each union is different and it doesn't necessarily mean you must be a welder. The pipefitters union has a variety of types of work. We do refrigeration piping, process piping, chilled water piping, heating piping, and service too. Piping using stainless, carbon, PVC , and copper are the basic ones. There's a huge amount of work to be done before you can start welding.
    Each apprenticeship is different . There's book work as there is hands on in school too. We had one day a week in school and balance on job. You need to sell yourself today. The more you know and apply will keep you working. I was still union when I was in the office . That can be nice when you get older and don't really care to work outside in the elements. Enjoying AC in a office might be a change from laying in a ditch welding as the water is rising. Fun times when you're young but might not be to enjoyable at a older age.
    Do a search on the unions you are considering . Talk to the business agents and they'll give you a information on what they do and the work avaiable. With construction you should except to travel. I worked as close as a few miles from home and then traveled 50 or more to work. Many shops have a speciality type work they stick too. So it depends on what shop you go too. Good Luck !!!

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