KBR has a strong history of working alongside of the U.S. military but it shouldn't end on the battlefield. That's why KBR, in partnership with Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC) and Fort Polk Army Base, has created a program to train active duty military in the pipefitting trade in preparation for their industry career after their separation from the military. This is an unprecedented opportunity to provide craft training directly to active duty personnel.
The KBR Veteran Pipefitting Training Program was spearheaded by Heath Culbertson, KBR's Veteran Liaison in the U.S. Construction's HR-Workforce Development department. Heath was tasked with finding ways to develop KBR's workforce and continue to serve military personnel after they left their posts. After extensive internal planning, the idea for the program was proposed to military leaders at Fort Polk. The session was so successful that Fort Polk's Garrison Commander, Col. David Athey, and Garrison Command Sergeant Major David Pitt granted verbal approval on the spot.
The program is a welcomed resource as current military drawdowns are anticipated to impact thousands of active duty military. The United States Army alone is releasing over 40,000 individuals in FY16 in addition to their normal release numbers. The program also makes strategic sense because the Gulf Coast region between Brownsville, Texas and Pascagoula, Mississippi has the largest concentration of projected future spending anywhere in the country – an estimated $284.3 billion will be spent in the region in the next five years, according to Industrial Info Resources. The increase in spending is expected to drive craft labor demands and pipefitting is one of the most sought after crafts.
"KBR is proud to help provide this great opportunity for soldiers to continue their education and build upon the foundation of their military training. This generation's post-9/11 veterans represent an extraordinary pool of talent and discipline that the craft industry needs. Our training partnership with Fort Polk provides a vehicle for veterans to translate their skills into the craft professions while supporting their transition to the civilian world," said David Zelinski, President of KBR's Onshore Americas business division.
The program's first class of trainees is scheduled to begin later this summer and there will be two classes a year thereafter. Initial selection of trainees will be made by Fort Polk's base command and are then screened by Fort Polk's Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) for good physical health, hand and eye coordination, math skills, and mechanical proficiency. As part of the selection process, candidates are also interviewed and approved by KBR.
Once the class selection has been made, twenty individuals will embark on a rigorous sixteen week academic schedule. Training will take place four days a week at CLTCC's Lamar Salter Campus for 8-10 hours a day and the fifth day of the week will be reserved for the soldiers to complete their mandatory Army appointments and other duties. KBR's U.S. Construction business group is making a significant investment to upgrade CLTCC's facilities for this training program as well as covering fees associated with the instructors who will be key contributors to the overall success of this program.
The training will consist of curriculum provided by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and will incorporate KBR's culture and safety practices. NCCER is the standard for craft professional development at KBR and throughout the industry. Trainees will be awarded Level 4 NCCER Pipefitting training credentials for both academic and hands-on practice. After successful completion of the course, individuals will have the opportunity to be hired on with KBR as mid-level pipefitting helpers, performing duties like assembling, installing, and repairing mechanical piping systems in an industrial environment.
Once hired, these graduates will be paired with experienced mentors to show them the ropes and ensure they are fully adapted and prepared to be professional craft pipefitters. Mentoring and job coaching will lay a strong foundation for success with the hope that graduates of this program will be well prepared to take on leadership opportunities within KBR. All of the soldiers that complete this course will have proven to not only to their Army leadership, but to KBR's leadership as well, that they are the best of the best.
"We are thrilled at the opportunity for our Fort Polk & Transition Assistance Program to partner with KBR," said Col. Athey. "The leadership at Fort Polk has been behind this program from day one. It is a great honor to be part of a program that further develops the skills of our veterans to help them prepare for a career in the craft labor industry. We are confident that when the set of Army skills and values our soldiers possess are coupled with the craft labor skills within this KBR program these "Soldiers for Life" will become a treasured member of the KBR team. The talents that these soldiers bring to the table are invaluable and we are excited that KBR wants to help our veterans succeed after serving our country," Athey continued.
The overall Veterans Pipefitting Training Program will be managed by KBR's Workforce Development (WFD) department and primarily led by Heath Culbertson, KBR's Veteran Liaison.