Ironworkers Welcome W.Va. Legislature

Members of Ironworkers Local 549 say when companies come to the local area seeking trained employees, they want to have welders ready for them.

The unions welcomed the West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education on Friday to talk about training and apprenticeship opportunities at the Local 549 facility.

“When the work comes to the area, we’re prepared,” said Jim Flanigan, business agent for Ironworkers Local 549.

Ironworkers erect, assemble or install fabricated structural metal products. Structural ironworkers build the framework for bridges and buildings, while reinforcing ironworkers set steel bars into concrete, and ornamental ironworkers install such items as metal stairways and catwalks.

There are presently 30 apprentices in the program, which takes about three and a half years to complete, said Keith Hughes, business manager for Ironworkers Local 549. The apprentices are placed in jobs during the course of the program, he noted.

The lawmakers on Friday had a chance to meet with companies hiring Local 549 apprentices and to try their skills on a virtual welding machine.

Flanigan said the ironworkers thought it was a good time to show off their facility to lawmakers focusing on education matters, as Local 549 is seeking to partner with colleges and technical schools to prepare workers.

“We’re a little secret – people don’t know we’re here,” he said. “We’re not like colleges. We have 100 percent job placement, and you can go anywhere you want to work. We don’t rely on anyone for money. We’re self-funded between us and our employers.”

The apprenticeship program is accredited by the American Welding Society, added Hughes. The certification obtained is accepted in all 50 states and soon could be recognized in Canada, he said.