“If you look at the horizon and what’s coming, it’s getting close. The most important thing for us is to be ready—and I believe we’re ready.”
Boilermakers, contractors and employers met in Napa, California, Mar. 28 to address industry challenges together and look ahead to new trends and future opportunities. Emphasized throughout the event were safety and quality, the future of energy production and a potential abundance of Boilermaker work on the horizon.
“We have to do whatever we can together—together—that’s the main thing,” said International President Newton B. Jones in his opening remarks. “If you look at the horizon and what’s coming, it’s getting close. The most important thing for us is to be ready—and I believe we’re ready.”
An array of speakers and presenters filled a substantive agenda focused on preparing Boilermakers, contractors and owners for jobs in the current and new energy future. Forty-one employer owners were in attendance.
“Boilermakers are a hard-working, highly skilled craft, and we see ourselves as more owner friendly than other unions,” said IVP-Western States J. Tom Baca in his opening remarks. “We show up for work with the necessary skills to do the job right, on time and on budget.”
Keynote speakers included Babcock & Wilcox Senior Vice President, Clean Energy, Joe Buckler and Director of Advanced Technologies Dr. Brian Higgins, as well as Betony Jones, U.S. Department of Energy Director of the Office of Energy Jobs.
Buckler and Higgins presented an overview of the company’s BrightLoop™ Technology, which captures carbon post-combustion and pre-combustion through a chemical looping process and can be used for a wide range of applications, including hydrogen production utilizing a variety of feedstocks (including biomass, coal, petcoke and waste fuels). One of the near-term beneficial outputs of the process is the production of clean hydrogen.
“This is an exciting time. At the core of who we are as a company is our technology and design work, and then we bring you all in to help build it, and that’s been the partnership that we’ve had for a very long time,” said Joe Buckler, B&W’s Senior Vice President, Clean Energy.
“We talk a lot about 24/7 power, and as we talk about an energy transition, that energy transition has got to have baseload power and power that works. Energy security is very important to us.”
Buckler described how B&W and the Boilermakers’ long history together are similar in adapting to new energy production technologies and pollution controls throughout the decades. He said he sees the next technologies with carbon capture and hydrogen as examples of logical next steps.
“As we’ve gone through change, we’ve been partners in change,” he said. “And when you go through change, you want to work with people you’re comfortable with and who you’ve worked with before. Our designs don’t work if someone’s not out there building it correctly.”
Office of Energy Jobs Director Betony Jones talked about large-scale jobs resulting from new technology and infrastructure projects and emphasized the importance of quality workmanship.
“These technologies are really exciting, but they pose real challenges if, for example, they’re not welded right,” she said. “So there needs to be a commitment to high quality craftsmanship, safety standards, good skills training, apprenticeship training and also creating high quality jobs that will retain the skilled workforce we need to get the job done.”
She called on the Boilermakers union and all trade unions to continue quality training and to fight for work opportunities, to take advantage of the current favorable environment for trade union workers.
"I think what the Boilermakers have done for a century-plus has been to look ahead and adapt, to innovate, to change with the times,” she said. “That’s the mindset we need going forward—not just for this union, but for the transition in the world addressing this [climate] crisis."
Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of Los Angeles, joined the conference via remote broadcast and echoed Jones’ remarks about the importance of trade unions leading effort to attain and staff jobs.
“We can’t do anything without strong, vigorous labor participation,” he said. “None of this can get done without the unions, who can do this work and know how to do this work better than those who aren’t in unions. You’ve trained and developed skills in a way the private sector has never been able to do.”
Other speakers included Steve Giffin, Turnaround Improvement Campaign Manager for PBF Energy and who serves as the Western States Owner Chairman, and Mark Garrett, MOST Programs Administrator, who both focused on the importance of safety and available programming for training and safety.
Focusing on national legislation impacting Boilermakers was Director of Legislative Affairs Cecile Conroy, while California Political Director Erin Lehane, President Emeritus for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Robbie Hunter and California Resources Corporation Executive Vice President Mike Preston each addressed state-level issues.
In other topics, Collin Keisling, Western States Joint Apprenticeship Program Coordinator gave an update on the apprenticeship and EPRI programs; Per Lorentzen of Cherne Contracting Corporation and who serves as Western States Tripartite Contractor Chairman addressed the issue of quality; and Andrew Meredith, President of the SBCTC discussed the current state of SBCTC.
IVP-SE Tim Simmons advised about nationwide dispatching; Marketing Manager Johnny Baca gave insight on Western States forecasting and recruitment efforts; International Director of Climate Change Policy Solutions Cory Channon highlighted the latest in carbon capture, use and storage and hydrogen relative to Boilermaker advocacy.
Additionally, Daniel Baublis, Chief Engineering Officer for H-Cycle, LLC, gave a presentation about his company’s suite of renewable and hydrogen solutions that will utilize Boilermakers across the Western States.
As has been the custom with the Western States Tripartite and other Boilermaker tripartite conferences, employers, contractors and Boilermakers broke into separate caucus sessions to determine topics of concern and opportunity to bring forward for the group as a whole to address. Each group then reported out at the closing of the conference, identifying key focal points of mutual concern.
All agreed that the tripartite conference is an important tool to bringing everyone together to solve problems and prepare for success.
“The story today is the energy of tomorrow,” said Ed McWhorter, General Manager, Western Operations for B&W/Chairman WFCNC and Western States Contractor Chairman. “What is the energy of tomorrow, and does anyone really understand the energy solutions of tomorrow? We have been and will continue to be together, constantly moving and shifting as the industry has needed.”
“We’re integral to each other,” said Lorentzen in his closing remarks. “We need to spend our energy on the 95% we have in common rather than the 5% that divides us.”