October 2012

Welding-Are You Holding Up Your End?

As ironworkers, we all have a responsibility and it's an important one. Our number one goal needs to be the ability to man the jobs available to us. What does this mean you ask? It means, showing up each and every day, having a positive attitude, being drug-free, working safely, and having all the skills necessary to get the job done right the first time. There are many aspects of the ironworking industry: fabrication, erection, ornamental, tying rods, post-tensioning, rigging, just to name a few. One very important part of industry often overlooked is welding. Regardless of which facet of ironworking we are doing, quite often there is some form of welding required. The question is, "Are you qualified as a welder?" And if so, "Are you keeping your welding certifications up to date?"

When a business agent gets a call from an employer for ironworker welders on the jobsite, it's imperative the agent has the ability to send qualified/certified welders to the jobsite. Taking a welder qualification test takes some time. It's not something you can run over and do in 30 minutes. Having a well-trained workforce with skilled welders requires some preparation. You cannot wait until the job call comes in.

In the Apprenticeship and Training Department, one of our biggest goals is to provide the training necessary for our members to be successful in every type of ironworking capacity and craft. It's imperative we provide a skilled workforce to those who hire us-signatory owners and contractors. Welding is a critical element of the ironworking industry.

The National Training Fund has developed an award-winning series of training manuals for each apprentice and journeymen to use. The manuals, which all work together, use a systematic approach to training welding theory. The instructor guide contains the necessary information, tips, and helpful suggestions for making the instructor's job easier. It tells them where in the student workbook the student should be. It tells them when to stop and show a video clip or when to stop and make sure the class understands a particular subject or a graph or picture. The manuals have been designed to help the instructor do his/her very best at teaching the theory of welding.

Each summer we offer at least one week of training (with costs being covered by the National Training Fund) to each apprenticeship coordinator and instructor at the annual Ironworker Instructor Training program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The campus at Washtenaw Community College has a state-of-the-art welding lab designed to help the instructors learn on the latest and best technology. Experts in the field from Lincoln Electric, Miller Electric, ESAB and others donate their time and knowledge for the sole purpose of making sure our instructors are the best they can be. Some of the courses even use our welding manuals, helping the instructors learn how to best use the manuals.

The Apprenticeship and Training Department at the Iron Workers International has developed a custom welding certification program with the assistance of the American Welding Society (AWS). We have 89 apprenticeship and training programs AWS accredited, allowing local union members to take a qualification test in a variety of processes. After an ironworker successfully passes the qualification test, their information is forwarded to our office electronically. Using the welder qualification information (WPQR), we then process a welder certification card for each successful welder. The card contains the welder's picture for identification purposes and the necessary qualification information. On the jobsite, the card provides immediate verification of the welder's qualifications and the opportunity for the ironworker welder to be put to work on the jobsite without the re-qualification process. We also send each welder a continuity logbook, allowing a record of your welding data as required by the qualifying AWS code.

As we train our apprentices and journeymen to weld and acquire the welding certifications needed to man the ironworker jobs available, it's important our methods and procedures remain consistent and standardized. The Ironworkers Welding Certification Program of North America has been designed and implemented to help reach this goal. The program is continuously updated with the necessary changes and welding procedures needed in order to facilitate the needs of the employers. Our welding accreditation program is recognized by agencies as one of the best. The AWS uses it as a standard for other custom programs to match.

And the cost of all of our work preparing our members to be the best welders? IMPACT covers the cost for each member to become a certified welder as long as you take your qualification test at one of our accredited training facilities (ATF).

Do you know whether your local union training facility is an accredited training and testing facility in the Iron Workers National program? Take a look at the September 2012 issue of The Ironworker and look for the AWS symbol next to your local union listing, and if it is there, take the time to get your welding qualification test out of the way. If it is not, attend your next local union meeting and ask why not? The ironworker welding program is built and managed by union ironworkers.

Have you figured out where you fit into this equation? It is the responsibility of each ironworker to receive the training necessary to be the best we can be. If you're not a current certified welder, you are not holding up your end of the beam. If you have a stick or SMAW certification, make sure you get your wire or FCAW certification as well. We hear stories all the time of welders being laid off because they aren't qualified to weld using the FCAW process. And keep your certifications current.

We have a responsibility to ourselves, our families, and our organization to get the training and certification needed to do the job, and protect our work. With all the tools available to our members for welder's certifications, we can make sure our members are ready for the jobs when called.

For more information about getting your facility accredited, contact General Organizer Ed Abbott at (202) 383-4802 or via e-mail at ed_abbott@iwnf.org.