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New Boilermaker training center launches in Tennessee

With Instructor Bill Campbell (back), are (l. to r.) Joel Dragoo, L-502; Lakevious Welch, L-108; Tevin Wooden, L-455; Rodney Goodman L-455; Lake Snyder, L-2060; Gary Gladden, L-108; Tyler Johnson, L-374; Abbott Dempsey, L-108.

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The first class of welding students struck arcs at a new Boilermaker training facility in Hartsville, Tennessee, February 22. The inaugural welding class is one of many varied training offerings planned in a facility located at a nuclear power center project that was abandoned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  

“The goal with this training facility is to provide a place to train everyone—journeymen, apprentices and recruits we bring in at a variety of levels and skillsets,” said International Rep Dusty Garmon, who led efforts to secure the space from TVA. “We want to be able to train anyone, whenever we want, toward any skills we want and as many people—after the pandemic—as we want. Having this facility gives us the flexibility we need to do that.” 

In addition to a 25,000-square-foot “main” building, the training facilities also include a separate building with four classrooms and office space, as well as another building for fabrication and machine shop training. Garmon said that while training offerings began with welding, others will be added, such as tank mockup, nuclear, rigging, torquing and EPRI.

“We want all aspects of the Boilermaker trade to train here, and it’s open to anyone in the country,” added Jeffrey Hughes, Director of Training Services and Assistant Director of Construction Sector Operations. He said one participant in the first class traveled from Alaska, and others are from throughout the United States. 

Eric Olson, Director of the Southeast Area Joint Apprenticeship Committee said he is looking forward to using the facility to house SAJAC’s training operations.

“These facilities have the space we need to adapt and expand training to meet new needs as they come along for Boilermaker employers,” he said. “At this facility, anything that’s needed or new, we will have the ability to do it.”

Garmon said it was the reputation Boilermakers have for their willingness learn, practice and adapt their skills that convinced TVA to provide the facility when he asked them about the possibility of obtaining a building. TVA has long been a Boilermaker employer and recently signed a 10-year contract with the Boilermakers union, along with the other union trades that make up TVA’s Trades and Labor Council. 

“TVA told me, ‘If we give you a building, it’s only going to make you better—which will make us better,’” Garmon said, noting that in addition to providing the building, TVA donated a crane for rigging training. 

The first class and near-future classes are limited to 12 students or fewer, due to COVID-19 safety precautions. To find out about upcoming class opportunities or register for Welding Bootcamp, visit https://www.bnap.com/boot-camp-welding. Those interested in having the training center host training for a specific or new skill should contact Jeffrey Hughes at jhughes@boilermakers.org.