Apprenticeship programs available in Wood County

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Apprentices in the ornamental class at the Iron Workers training center in Parkersburg are, from left, Tim Taulbee, Seth Townsend and Alicia Woods. Also pictured are Eric Tingler, left, and Jesse Rhodes, right.

PARKERSBURG –West Virginia provides free apprenticeship programs to prepare participants for work in well-paying jobs.

Wood County is home to several building trades union apprentice programs, including Carpenters, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Electricians, Laborers, Millwrights, Roofers, Sheet Metal Workers, Iron Workers, Boilermakers and Cement Masons. Other building trades apprentice programs with training centers are in Huntington, Insulators; Medina, Operating Engineers; Weston, Painters; and Harrisville, Bricklayers.

Some of the local apprentice programs train people from throughout the state.

“Apprenticeships are proven training strategies that help our contractors by creating a highly skilled, productive employee and helps that worker start new careers that offer better wages and benefits,” said Carl Reynolds, who recently retired as administrator at the West Virginia Laborers’ Training Center in Mineral Wells.

“Apprenticeship can help strengthen the local workforce for both the employer and the union,” Reynolds said, describing it as a “win, win” program.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Eric Tingler, left, Jesse Rhodes, middle, and Alicia Woods, right, work on a door frame at the Iron Workers training center in Parkersburg.

“Apprenticeship is a blueprint to success,” Reynolds said.

The West Virginia Laborers’ Training Center in Mineral Wells has 11 classrooms with three large training bays inside. Students learn building construction, heavy/highway and utility construction, masonry, demolition, deconstruction, pipeline, tunneling and environmental remediation.

From 20-100 students a day participate at the Laborers’ Training Center in Mineral Wells, which is on 170 acres, Reynolds said.

Students receive three meals a day and can live in a facility that houses up to 36 students.

Participants receive classroom and hands-on training in becoming a construction craft laborer.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Eric Tingler, left, and Jesse Rhodes, right, work on a door frame at the Iron Workers training center in Parkersburg.

It is “real-world learning,” Reynolds said of the apprentice programs.

Some apprenticeship programs can last four to five years, Reynolds said. They get to learn while working on a construction job and are trained on modern equipment and with new technology, he said.

Reynolds said there is a high demand for quality laborers in West Virginia. He mentioned the need for skilled laborers in road construction, pipeline work and school construction.

Those seeking to enter an apprenticeship program should get applications through the Workforce West Virginia Employment Service Office (Job Service).

The apprenticeship program has certified instructors who have national certification.

There are about 50 union contractors in commercial and industrial work who hire workers from the local union halls, said Clint Suggs, executive director of the Parkersburg-Marietta Contractors Association.

The apprentice programs help these contractors and the owners find trained, quality workers, Suggs said. The contractors pay for the apprentice programs through benefit contributions.

Suggs has talked to local high school students about the apprenticeship programs.

These apprenticeships are U.S. Department of Labor-approved programs, which means they are registered with the state, have trust documents and apprenticeship standards, and are managed by a joint committee of labor and management trustees, Suggs said.

“Most apprenticeship programs run four years, although some may be longer,” Suggs said. “Apprentices will learn work ethics as well as all of the skills required to master their trade. They are held accountable to the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee to attend class, go to work every day and on time, and to pass annual as well as random drug tests,” Suggs said.

A contractor that is signatory to the building trades doesn’t have to carry a craftsperson on his payroll year-round, only when he needs them, Suggs said.

With building trades craftsmen, contractors and owners realize they are getting well-trained, skilled, safe workers that want to get the job done right the first time, Suggs said.

“It’s a proven business model that works well for many,” Suggs said.

Alicia Woods of Wood County is a student in the Iron Workers apprenticeship program in Parkersburg.

“I don’t want to sit at a desk. I like working with my hands,” Woods said. “I want to work with my hands, that’s the best fit for me,” she said in describing why she entered the apprenticeship program.

Woods also has some training as a welder. She said that is a skill she has to use in many areas.

Woods said she likes the other benefits as well.

“I like the benefits, the insurance and the pension,” she said.

Even though she had not graduated from the program, Woods is on the job, putting her new skills to use.

“I’m working at Sherwood right now in Doddridge County,” she said. “It’s only an hour from home.”

Her family supports her career choice, Woods said.

“They have been supportive, always supportive,” she said. “I haven’t had any discouragement.”

Woods said the field is wide open for more and more people who want to go to work.

“This is great for someone who likes to work hard; it’s not sitting at a desk,” she said. “We need more people.”