Chicago Pipe Fitters Local 597 Trailblazer and Innovator Spotlight

Posted by Chad Aleshire - On June 10, 2013 (EST)

In 2007, Pipe Fitters Local Union 597, of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA) launched a hybrid welding program to support the need for skilled workers in this occupation. The UA has a long history using apprenticeship’s “earn while you learn” model, establishing the first nationally registered joint apprenticeship program in the United States, dating back to 1936.   

The 16-week hybrid welding program offers apprentices up to 700 hours of welding training, 85% of which is “hands on.” The training includes a low instructor to student ratio, which gives apprentices additional mentor-based instruction time, adding to the program’s great success. Since its existence, over 300 students have graduated from the program, and all are now gainfully employed. Once a hybrid student or a graduate apprentice obtains four welding certifications, they have the option to continue their training through journeyman level courses.

Pipe Fitters Local Union 597 apprenticeship program began in 1921.  Today, apprentices take advantage of a 198,000 square-foot state-of-the-art training facility, located in Mokena, Illinois.  The facility includes 116 welding booths, 2 computer rooms with 20-student stations each, two coupon cutting machines (flame cuts and machine bevels), an overhead crane, a lecture hall complete with wireless (wan) laptops, auditorium seating for up to 250, and a complete HVAC instructional/practical area.  The facility provides training for 18 counties in Illinois and northwest Indiana.

An apprentice who completes the Pipe Fitters program is able to attain an Associate’s degree after taking three online courses offered by the Pipe Fitters International Organization, the UA.

Pipe Fitters Local 597 was recognized as a Trailblazer and Innovator program, which highlighted innovative training models that embody the 21st century vision for apprenticeship, during the Department of Labor’s OutEducate OutBuild OutInnovate Education and Action Summit” in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act.  Apprentice Coordinator Kevin Lakomiak represented the program during the August 1, 2012 event, in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Lakomiak was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by then Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Administrator of Apprenticeship John V. Ladd.

Pipe Fitters Local 597 Business Manager James Buchannan spoke on the importance of this recognition.
He stated that “Pipe Fitters Local 597 has a long history of using Apprenticeship to build a workforce of the best Pipe Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Technicians in the country.  The use of our hybrid welding program gives our students the opportunity to gain skills and advance into our rigorous 5-year Apprenticeship program.  This recognition helps confirm our belief that the men and women that enter our program receive the best training available anywhere in the world.    

For more on Local Union 597, please visit the Chicago Pipe Fitters Local Union 597 Training Center Website.  For more on Local Union 597 Registered Apprenticeship opportunities, CLICK HERE.  

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Modified On : June 10, 2013
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