KBR’s Fort Polk Pipefitting Program Graduates Eight Active Duty Soldiers
On December 20, KBR and the Fort Polk Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) celebrated the accomplishments of eight active duty Army soldiers who completed a rigorous, 120-day pipefitting training program. The program was delivered in an industry-education partnership with Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC) in Leesville, Louisiana. The graduates were awarded National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Pipefitting course completion certificates and credentials, and every graduating soldier will be offered top helper positions on KBR project sites.
On August 16, 2016 KBR launched the training program to train active duty soldiers under the Army’s Career Skills Program (CSP). Soldiers who are within 180 days of separation have the opportunity to apply and be selected to participate in these competitive, Army-approved, civilian training courses in preparation for their separation from the United States Army. KBR partnered with CLTCC Lamar Salter Campus to host the training location and provide the soldiers with 28 college credit hours. During the course, the soldiers accomplished all four levels of NCCER pipefitting curriculum with an emphasis on hands-on competency and lab practice to ensure the graduates could perform in the field. During their training, the soldiers partnered with the college’s welding class to learn how pipefitters and welders actually work together in the industry to complete pipe work.
The idea for the training program came about when KBR’s Workforce Development department and U.S. Construction leadership identified current and former military as a strategic group from which to recruit and develop for the industry. KBR is committed to hiring and training veterans who have served our country. With the recent and current reduction in force numbers that the U.S. Military is experiencing along with the construction industry’s aging and reducing workforce, it only made sense to establish a training program for members of the military who are being “laid off.” According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. government spent $474 million in unemployment benefits for separating service men and women in fiscal year 2015. This program not only helps to combat that cost to the U.S. taxpayers, it helps to replenish the craft skill shortage in the industrial construction sector. It truly is a win-win-win situation for all involved. By providing this training to active-duty service members prior to them separating from the military, we are teaching them a very valuable trade skill that they can take with them anywhere in the world to support themselves and their families.
The 16-week program is instructed by a veteran as well: a KBR employee who is an NCCER Certified Plus Pipefitter and former Army medic. The course included NCCER curriculum, hands-on training and also incorporated KBR safety practices and aspects of KBR’S culture throughout the program. Before each task the students performed in the lab, and they accomplished a KBR Total Safety Task Inspection (TSTI) to mitigate and eliminate any possible injuries while performing their tasks. After graduation and separation from the Army, the soldiers will hire on to help staff KBR construction projects throughout the United States where they will be paired with an experienced pipefitting journeyman to “show them the ropes”. This will enable soldiers to familiarize themselves with the specific project they are assigned to, as well as get the all-important and critical on-the-job training to start gaining their experience towards becoming journeymen. By attending this course their transition from active duty to the civilian sector will be less stressful for both the graduates and their immediate family members.
The graduation ceremony for the first class was kicked off by the Pledge of Allegiance and a KBR Safety Moment presented by Joe Guerra, class valedictorian and a 2017 Pipefitter Competitor for KBR at the annual National Craft Championships held by ABC National. Members from KBR, CLTCC, and Fort Polk’s senior leadership attended the ceremony to celebrate the soldiers’ accomplishments. Ken Schmidt, KBR’s Senior VP of U.S. Construction and Fort Polk’s Garrison Command Sergeant Major David Pitt spoke and presented the NCCER certificates, wallet cards and commemorative KBR Pipefitting program challenge coins specifically designed for the course. The coins were designed by the class in keeping with military tradition to recognize major campaigns and successes via commemorative coins. Additionally, Jimmy Sawtelle, Chancellor of CLTCC, spoke and presented the graduates with certificates awarding 28 college credit hours. In addition, each student was presented with a KBR pipefitter helper starter tool kit to get each of them started in their new careers, and the top three students (Christopher Gigler, Joe Guerra, and Nathan Wisniewski) were awarded a KBR-embroidered Fire Resistant (FR) shirt and FR pants. The ceremony was concluded by the students presenting their instructor with a plaque to show their appreciation for all his hard work and dedication throughout the four-month course.
KBR is extremely proud and excited for all the graduates and is anticipating their arrival to the jobsites so the veterans can put their hard work and dedication to the test in their new career choice. KBR is proud to partner with the Fort Polk Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, and appreciates the support of CLTCC. The next class of KBR’s Veteran Pipefitting Program is scheduled to begin February 14, 2017.