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Painters and Allied Trades Veterans Program

Hands-on training

Pilot program aids transition to trades career after military

Published: 01:15PM April 17th, 2014

As a result of attrition and military downsizing, between 6- and 8,000 Joint Base Lewis-McChord service members find themselves preparing for transition to the civilian sector.

Sergeant Nick Meade of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment began looking at the different courses available at Stone Education Center and ultimately picked the Painters and Allied Trades Veterans Program.

The three-week 120-hour accelerated course prepares service members for abrasive blasting and industrial coating applications to control the corrosion of bridges, power plants, pipelines and ships.

“It’s a growth industry,” said Greg Renne, recruitment manager for the Finishing Trades Institute International.

The industrial painting course was developed through a local partnership between District Council 5 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Seattle and JBLM leaders, as well as with the IUPAT’s Finishing Trades Institute.

Renne said service members are a perfect fit for working in the industrial coating career field for the attitude and aptitude they’ve shown serving in the United States military with a cross-functional ability. Even after the first few days of the class, Renne said he’s seen all of those qualities from the mix of specialists and sergeants interacting with each other and participating in discussions.

“Not only are they built to work in the field, they’re very detail oriented,” Renne said. “They have an ability to get the job done and work together as a team.”

During the first two weeks of the course, which started March 25 at Stone Education Center on Lewis Main, instructors covered all of the safety precautions required not only to protect themselves — but also their coworkers and the environment — while contstraining rust, lead paint and other materials from dropping onto trees and absorbing into the soil.

The third and final week of instruction gave Soldiers a chance to gain hands-on experience with different ways to apply coats of paint, drywall and other industrial coatings.

When learning about the course, Spc. Dustin LaValley of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery said a hands-on career was his preference. While his active duty service included some work behind a computer, he enjoyed being out on the field setting up tents and antennas while deployed or on training exercises.

“I like to stay busy and I like to be out moving around,” LaValley said. “Nothing like a sitting down behind a desk kind of job.”

The course also counts as six months of a four-year apprenticeship. Painters within IUPAT start out at $18/hour with full benefits and an opportunity to earn more through promotion.

Upon completion of the course April 11, the service members were honored during a graduation ceremony April 14 at the IUPAT District Council 5 in Seattle. The five Soldiers will continue to learn while earning a full-time hourly wage en route to completing the remaining three-and-a-half years of their respective apprenticeships.

“The amount of money you can make without a college degree is higher, and with the benefits that we get, it helps,” Meade said. “My biggest thing is being able to provide for my wife (Kimberly) and my daughter (Eva).”

Renne said many apprenticeships offer work along most of the U.S. coastline. While Renne said a graduate can improve their marketability by being available to move to where the work is, there are opportunities for those who wish to stay in the Pacific Northwest.

Some, though, are alredy considering trading the rain of the Seattle-Tacoma area for the warmth of the Southern California sun.

“My parents are in Portland, Ore.,” LaValley said. “I figure it’s only a 10-hour drive and I have a lot of family down in Southern California.”