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High Demand for Welders Sparks Innovative Certification Competition

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High Demand for Welders Sparks Innovative Certification Competition

More than four thousand new welding certifications were administered in 2013 thanks to a competition sponsored by the labor-management unit of the International Association of Iron Workers. The first ever Welding Certification Contest drew thousands of participants from among hundreds of Local Unions nationwide.

Four Local Unions received a $10,000 award for meeting the requirements to certify the most members in structural welding.

Divided into four categories based on the membership size of the participating Local Unions, the contest focused on a key goal: increasing the number of union welders qualified and certified in structural welding — an aspect of iron work that is in high demand worldwide. The competition also served as incentive for Local Unions to compete for funds to improve their training capacity.

At the heart of the contest was a single, important proposition, said Lee Worley, Executive Director of Apprenticeship and Training at Ironworkers International:

“With the amount of welding work expected to increase significantly this year, how can we increase the numbers of certified welders?” Worley said.  Major infrastructure and construction projects are expected to increase across North America in 2014, according to construction industry experts. In 2010, there were 337,300 jobs for welders, cutters, solderers, and brass workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  By 2020 that number is expected to increase by as much as 15 percent.

Local Unions in Austin, Tex., Cedar Rapids, IA, Milwaukee, Wisc., and San Diego, Calif., each received $10,000 from the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT.)  The money will be used by the Locals for training materials and equipment.

The 12-month long contest resulted in a total of 4,537 new qualifications/certifications in structural welding, said Ed Abbott, General Organizer at Iron Workers International. The contest results exceeded expectations.   As a result of robust participation in the contest, by the close of 2013, “We saw the total number of certified ironworker welders increase by two thousand,” Abbott said.

Seth Gorman, Apprenticeship Coordinator at Local Union No. 89 in Cedar Rapids, said members there were determined to take a top prize: They competed in the 251-400 Member Local Category, achieving 100 new certifications to earn First Place.

“It was a great experience. It brought our membership together in an important way,” Gorman said. “Iron workers as a rule are very competitive but this contest was a positive feeling; it really helped build camaraderie.”  Gorman said Local No. 89 intends to use the prize money to construct a new mezzanine at their facility and to purchase new tools.

The International Iron Workers has 155 training centers in the U.S. and Canada, and offers four year apprentice programs in welding and other aspects of ironwork.

About the Iron Workers and IMPACT:

Founded in 1896, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, AFL-CIO, is a proud trade association which represents more than 120,000 members throughout the United States and Canada.  The men and women the union have worked on nearly every major construction project you can think of—the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sears Tower, the St. Louis Arch, the World Trade Center and now the Freedom Tower in New York.  We represent trained, highly skilled and safe Ironworkers who specialize in structural steel, ornamental, architectural, miscellaneous metals, industrial maintenance, welding, rebar and who work in shop locals.

The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), affiliated with the Iron Workers International Union, is a labor-management partnership designed to create work opportunities in the ironworking industry.  Our primary mission is to provide a forum for Ironworkers and signatory contractors to discuss effective strategies aimed to expand job opportunities through innovative labor-management cooperative programs.

IMPACT provides expertise in training, construction certifications, marketing, construction project tracking and bidding, insurance and Davis-Bacon compliance efforts.  IMPACT also administers a world-class substance abuse program to ensure that Ironworkers are safe, drug-free and ready to work.

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