PARKERSBURG - Area trades unions gathered Thursday to showcase their apprenticeship programs to state and local politicians.
Walter "Fuzz" LaRue, field representative for the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council, said representatives of about a dozen area trades unions gathered in Parkersburg to create awareness of the kinds of programs offered in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
"A lot of people just don't know what we have out here," he said Thursday at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 on Camden Avenue. "We did this about six year ago and had about 40 people out here. We are just trying to educate our elected officials on what we do here with our apprenticeship program."
Photo by Michael Erb
Dean Tuell, business representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, looks at pieces of irregular ductwork built by students in the group’s apprenticeship program.
Photo by Michael Erb
Brad Winans, business manager for the Iron Workers Local Union 787, shows the apprenticeship program’s virtual welding machine, which allows students to practice different forms of welding without using materials or dealing with hazardous conditions.
LaRue said the programs are unique because they are paid for through union member pay and do not cost anything for the students.
"Our contractors and our membership share in that responsibility," of paying for programs, he said. "The money to pay for our schools come out of each worker's pay."
The programs are constantly evolving, said Dean Tuell, business representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local 33.
West Virginia apprenticeship programs can be searched by county at http://wvapprenticeships.com.
"It is an ongoing process as new technologies are developed," he said.
"Our contractors tell us what they need for the future, and we provide that for the students," LaRue said.
West Virginia boasts about 34 apprenticeship facilities, LaRue said, and a large number are located within Parkersburg and the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Delegate Dan Poling was one of the politicians who toured the facilities Thursday and talked with union representatives.
"This gives us a better understanding of what the trades are doing and how their programs work," Poling said. "The training facilities I've seen here are second to none, right here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. If you are looking for a job, this is the place to come."
Poling also said the event was a chance for the trades unions to get the word out on their continuing efforts to curb drug and alcohol use among their workers.
"What I am seeing here today is a big push on drug-free workplaces in addition to the skills," Poling said. "Just having the skills isn't enough. They want to make sure the work zones are safe and drug-free."
Letha Haas, program administrator for the Parkersburg-Marietta Contractors and Trades Educational and Development Fund, said annual and random drug testing has become a way to boost safety and the reputation of the trades.
"We are providing drug-free workers to area contractors," she said. The group boasts about 14,000 members who take part in the drug and alcohol screening programs. The group also offers background checks on workers and keeps data on a centralized system, so workers traveling between companies and work sites can be cleared to work at those sites without being repeatedly tested the same day.
"They don't have to carry a large stack of credentials. All of that is available electronically in one place," Haas said.