There is no question the Appalachian Basin has a shortage of trained welders. Up and down the Ohio River, union halls are now empty due to the increased workload from shale development. Now, thanks to an innovative welding program between Pioneer Pipe and local career centers, the company is training local high school seniors to fill those needs.
Pioneer Pipe, based in Marietta, is well known in the oil and gas industry for its fabrication and assembly pipe work, for both upstream and midstream companies across the region. Providing work for companies like MarkWest, Chesapeake, Utica East Ohio, Blue Racer, Antero, Chevron and many more, the company has a vested interest in making sure there are plenty of well-trained individuals take on the increased workload.
With 60-65 percent of its work attributed to the oil and gas industry, Pioneer Pipe knew it needed to find more individuals interested in a welding career in Washington County. That is when Pioneer Pipe began working with Washington County Career Center in Marietta on developing a program that would give high school students a head start in taking up the profession.
“Our welding program, we started two years ago. We were fortunate enough to have a local career center who was interested in partnering with us. Since then we have added two career centers. We now have Washington County Career Center, Swiss Hills Career Center and Mid-East Career and Technology Center partner with us and provide students to us to participate in this welding program. Over the last two years we have 31 students successfully complete the career and they are now apprentices’ in the local plumber and pipefitters apprentice program.”- Matt Hilverding, Chief Operating Office and Chief Financial Officer, Pioneer Pipe
Pioneer Pipe spent $300,000 building a lab and buying equipment for the students to learn their trade. In addition, the company has partnered with the Washington Career Center, Swiss Hills Career Center and Mid-East Career and Technology Centers, who each send 5-6 students identified by the school as having the interest and skills to be successful in the advanced welding program.
“As part of the program when students arrive they spend 3 hours a day in the welding lab to receive intense instruction from our instructors here in seven different processes. At the end of their senior year, they should have all seven certifications. After their time in the lab, then they receive on the job training in our shop up to six hours a day through the school day, sometimes on weekends they can get up to ten hours a day and they are required 1,000 hours of on the jobs training as part of the program.” – Matt Hilverding, Chief Operating Office and Chief Financial Officer, Pioneer Pipe
Throughout their training, the students will receive a total of seven welding certifications, four API certifications and three ASME certifications. In addition, once they graduate the students will become second year apprentices receiving a 60 percent journeyman’s package in Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 168. From there the students will apprentice for an additional three years at Pioneer Pipe. Currently the total package, which includes health and retirement, for a member of Local 168 at Pioneer Pipe equates to $65.00 an hour. Not too shabby for a 22-year old, and certainly good news for young people in the region looking for a career.
Due to the success of the program, Pioneer Pipe is already in the process of expanding its training center from seven to thirteen welding stations to accommodate more students next year. In preparation for next year, the company has already allocated a second employee to help instruct the students to make sure they have as much one-on-one time as possible with their instructors.
The collaboration between local career centers and Pioneer Pipe is a testament to giving back to the community where you operate. Not only are they training students the art of welding, but they are providing them with a job as soon as they graduate high school.
The oil and gas industry is creating tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio. Now thanks to Pioneer Pipe and local career centers, there will be even more Ohioans trained to fill those needs.