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Northeast Area Tripartite stresses need for qualified welders

IVP-NE John Fultz announces a new training center in East Hartford, Connecticut.

THE NORTHEAST AREA Tripartite highlighted initiatives in the Northeast Section, including a new training center and additional work gained for members. The biennial conference, held in Plymouth, Massachusetts, July 12-13, brought together owners, contractors and Boilermakers to address common issues facing the construction industry throughout the region.

IVP-NE John Fultz said a new training facility in East Hartford, Connecticut, is finished and recently opened its doors for three back-to-back Welding Boot Camp sessions in an effort to increase the number of qualified welders in the union.

“We know we have projects that aren’t being bid because we don’t have the people to man the job,” Fultz said. “That’s why there’s a heavy push for the boot camp and for recruiting.”

The Northeast is gaining man hours by scoring new jobs—one being the construction of two Maid of the Mist tourist boats for sightseeing along Niagara Falls. While gaining man hours is necessary for the union’s survival, Boilermakers also need enough workers to fill the jobs. The challenge, Fultz said, is that state regulations prevent locals from taking on enough apprentices to replace members who are retiring.

“We’re using the helper program to add more workers,” he said, citing the success of the program in the Western States. “IVP Tom Baca uses this helper program to fill the jobs in refineries.”

Fultz noted that L-92 (Los Angeles) used to have around 200 members; now it tops 1,140. “That proves to me that the helper program works.”

Manning jobs is a priority since Kiewit recently came back to Pennsylvania after a long hiatus. Kiewit’s Jeff Jones, area manager at Hickory Run Energy Center, said Kiewit hadn’t worked in western Pennsylvania for over 20 years when they bid the Homer City Generating Station project and were awarded the contract to construct two air quality control systems.

“We knew it was a Boilermaker job, and we knew that if we were going to be successful, we had to sell ourselves to the union.”

Kiewit worked with Local 154 (Pittsburgh) to man the job, and the contractor routinely held tripartite meetings onsite. Jones said the success of that build was due to Kiewit’s strong relationship with L-154 and BM-ST John Hughes, who was the local’s business agent at the time.

“He spent a lot of time on that job,” Jones said. “You can’t make an impact if you’re not present on the job, and John was present. We developed a mutual respect for one another. It made the job very successful for Kiewit.”

Jones said two challenges facing contractors are the aging workforce, and the detrimental effect on the construction industry due to the problem of opioid abuse in the building trades. “It truly impacts our line of work,” Jones said. “This issue is not going away, and we can’t ignore it. If we act now, maybe we can get in front of it.”

Also speaking were Jason Dupuis, the Northeast Area Apprenticeship Committee administrator; Boilermaker National Apprenticeship Program Coordinator Mark Wertz; Bridget Martin, Bank of Labor senior vice president; and MOST Training Rep Jay Brophy.