"Heavy Metal" Apprentices Become Journeymen

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Jobless New Yorkers stacked up at the doors of the New York District Council of Carpenters in lower Manhattan, seeking a shot at a place in their apprenticeship program.  Hopeful applicants camped out for days, seeking a chance to work at a skilled trade.

The Ohio Valley offers those same type of apprenticeship opportunities.  New journeyman ironworkers celebrated their graduation at a local restaurant.  One of them talked about the attraction working with "heavy metal" has for him.

"Personally, the heights," new journeyman ironworker Nathan Miller said.  "I love everything about it -- the adrenaline rush -- you know, when you're on the top of the iron, you feel like you're on top of the world.  Plus, the pay, and the vacation.  I wanted a pension someday.  Someday, I'd like to be able to retire," Miller said.  He's 21 years old.

Union ironworkers work with structural steel for buildings,  bridges, and highways, and also ornamental ironwork.  In Wheeling, training begins at the training center run by Ironworkers Local 549.

John Rothacker coordinates the apprentice program for the local.  "It's slowed down a little bit since the gas industry's hit," he said.  "We used to have 200 applicants at a time.  Down to 50, probably 80 now."

For ironworkers,  it's a three and a half year path from apprentice to journeyman.  On that path lies training in welding, reading blueprints, and working safely -- whether above ground or below ground.  Miller says people only get out of the training what they put into it.

"It's what they make of it.  Honestly," he said.  "The training's all there.  The guys to help you there -- you can get a job anywhere.  Anywhere you want to go."

Which might include working on the tall buildings in the big city.


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