Preparing patriots

By Gretchen Salois

In Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S. veterans learn to weld

September 2015 - After serving their country in the battlefield, a soldier’s, sailor’s or marine’s transition to civilian life includes finding employment. Careers requiring well-practiced skills include welding and demand for welders has increased. In Alaska, the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center is training military veterans for career opportunities in the fabrication and pipefitting field.

“There is a shortage of certified pipe welders in Alaska and nationwide—this is an opportunity for a good paying career after their military service,” says John Plutt, training director at Fairbanks area Plumbers & Pipefitters Apprenticeship training. The need for shielded metal arc welding skills is growing in the Fairbanks area in particular. “The Pipefitters Local 375 is in the business to train [students] for career opportunities in the piping industry and we feel it is important we offer this to veterans and help guide them toward a good paying career path,” he adds. 


The introductory training course is 40 hours long. Students will learn basic knowledge and skills using welding equipment, electrodes and welding procedures for structural and pipe welding as well as oxy-fuel welding and other cutting processes useful in the piping industry. 

Pipeline prowess

The course includes welding processes specific to pipefitting. There are seven training sites across a 66-acre campus, allowing vets to learn skills on large-diameter pipeline construction, including side boom operation, pipe welding, surveying, heavy equipment operation, drilling, and placing Vertical Support Members (VSMs) using actual equipment, materials and tools used in the field, according to the training center.

Students receive instruction on shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), flux core arc welding (FCAW), metal inert gas (MIG), tungsten inert gas (TIG) and submerged arc welding (SMAW). Structural welding is taught at the facility with an emphasis on “quality and production pipe welding as required by the oil and gas industry in Alaska,” the center states. Students are also taught cutting and beveling, including oxygen and acetylene cutting, plasma cutting, end prep equipment, cut steel plates and pipe for welding exercises, and proper use of grinders and buffers.


Once they gain a basic understanding of pipeline technology, students move on to rigging fundamentals, including recognizing safe working loads, sling identification and selection, proper rigging techniques, identifying pipe defects as well as recognizing various types of rigging hardware, crane signals, and hoisting and jacking equipment. 

The education doesn’t end with the introductory course. “Students will have an opportunity to apply to our apprenticeship program and better their knowledge in the piping trade,” Plutt says, adding the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 375 and Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center have joined together to offer these courses, with the support of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The “excellent pay and benefits” afforded those possessing the necessary skills in the oil and gas sector can help returning military embark on a stable, in-demand career. FFJ


  • Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    phone: 907/455-1234

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