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Union promotes apprenticeship program for coming infrastructure work

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If pipelines, roads and other infrastructure are going to be built in West Virginia, why not use West Virginians to build them?

Members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America listen as Gov. Jim Justice describes the number of jobs that would would be created if his road construction program is approved by voters in October.
(Photo by Jim Ross)

That was what Gov. Jim Justice and members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America asked at a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 10. The answer was a union apprenticeship program in Parkersburg seeking applicants.

Justice endorsed the program for displaced coal miners, veterans and others looking for work. If the state road bond is approved by voters in October, jobs and opportunities will open up for “tens and tens and tens of thousands” of people, Justice said.

Justice said his message to people in other states will be “Come to West Virginia, because we’re going to have a bushel basket of good jobs waiting for you.”

Dennis L. Martire, vice president and regional manager for LIUNA, said the Atlantic Coast Pipeline alone will provide 1,300 construction jobs.

“We do our own training. We pay for our own training, and we put out the best, safest laborers out there in the industry,” he said.

Carl Reynolds, administrator of the LIUNA training center at Parkersburg, said the union has 350 different skills for laborers working on pipelines, roads and other infrastructure. They learn instrumentation, equipment and tools. Laborers must know what carpenters, electricians and others on the job are doing from the first day to the last, he said.

Apprentices receive 160 hours of training before they set foot on a job. Overall, they receive 400 hours of instruction in basic construction, safety, concrete placement, pipe laying, line and grade instrument reading and environmental remediation.

The next round of training for first-year apprentices starts the first full week after Labor Day and runs four consecutive weeks, Reynolds said. The training center at Parkersburg has a dorm for 40 students, he said.

Martire said it’s common for large gas projects to bring in workers from out of state, whether it’s West Virginia, Pennsylvania or South Dakota.

“You’re not going to get 100 percent local workers because there is so much work and so many opportunities,” he said. “You guys have the gas right here. The amount of work that’s going to be created from this is not just for the next 10 years. You’re looking at the next 30, 40, 50 years of an industry that’s going to create local jobs for local residents.

“Why would we not train the local people here to take those jobs? We can create the economy right here, right now.”

Companies would rather hire local people than pay hotel bills for out-of-state workers, Martire said.

“We’re not looking to replace coal miners, but if there’s a coal miner that needs a paycheck, we want to take them in right now to get that paycheck,” he said.

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