March 2012

Ironworkers Clamor for Final Spots in CWI Prep Course at the Union’s Benicia, Calif., Training Center

The Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) Prep & Recertification Courses, offered Jan. 23–27, filled well before the class’s registration deadline, despite the California Department of Transportation’s claim late last year that a “shortage” of welders and welding inspectors has forced the state to hire foreign workers to complete welding jobs, notably on the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Iron Workers Union, with the help of the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), also provides a CWI Prep course in St. Louis.

Welding is one of the most demanding skills that an ironworker can learn. This is true, at least, according to Brian Colombo, apprenticeship coordinator for Local 377 (San Francisco) and Local 378 (Oakland) in the San Francisco Bay area.

Colombo qualified his statement rather convincingly, “You’re probably looking at six months of 40-hour weeks to earn the welding certifications that are most commonly used on a typical job.”
While the rigor of the job hasn’t put a damper on ironworkers’ fervor to learn the nuances of this difficult profession, it has compelled the Iron Workers Union to train the qualified inspectors needed to teach this most difficult skill. The union’s 40-hour Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) Prep & Recertification course, offered at the Benicia, California training center (the same course is also offered at the Local 396 Training Center in St. Louis, another regional apprenticeship training facility) is a necessary component in meeting this demand.

The CWI prep course prepares students to go forward and take the American Welding Society’s Certified Welding Inspector Exam, a three-part test focusing on the welding codebook, welding fundamentals, and hands-on inspection.

“The codebook alone is nearly over 500 pages, written by a lengthy list of experts in the welding industry,” Colombo explained. “People that have passed have really achieved something.”
Ironworkers who pass the test become certified welding inspectors, and, according to Colombo, “bring incredible value to our signatory contractors, because these guys know all aspects of the work.” Workers can function in a dual capacity as ironworker and inspector, whereas many contractors without access to qualified inspectors must foot the bill to hire out for inspections. “The ironworkers cut out a huge expense for contractors.

Ironworkers who pass the test and become a CWI bring a much better understanding of the entire welding process qualification, metallurgy, and welder training.”

Welders have to maintain incredibly sharp analytical and physical skills to do their jobs. “When you’re fusing two pieces of metal together, there is no room for error or for any discontinuities in your welds. One mistake can lead to disaster.” To demonstrate the precision ironworker welders maintain, Colombo added, “Our work, the critical welds, is often subject to x-ray or ultrasound testing to make sure they are acceptable.”

This unique course, which filled early this year, saw some interested ironworkers turned away due its tremendous popularity.

“Contractors and customers can rest assured that all of their welding needs can and will be fulfilled by union ironworkers thanks to our unwavering dedication to superior training,” said Dick Zampa Jr., state apprenticeship director, California and Vicinity apprenticeship program.
The ironworkers of Locals 377 and 378 maintain the highest standards in ironworker training and upgrading, as do all Iron Workers local unions throughout the United States and Canada. The field ironworkers’ regional apprenticeship training facility in Benicia is one of three of its kind across North America. The union also operates regional training facilities in St. Louis and New Jersey.

In addition to local training courses in and around Benicia, the Iron Workers International Union, in conjunction with Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) and the Apprenticeship and Training Department, hold an annual weeklong training program in Ann Arbor, Michigan for Iron Worker instructors and provide $50 million each year to ironworker training centers across North America.

Learn more about other welding courses at It’s also never too early to prepare for this year’s Ironworker Instructor Training Program, July 11–20, 2012.