As the need for iron workers grows across the country, local unions have received federal funding to expand their services.
In fact, $1 million in congressional directed spending was given through West Virginia Senators Shelly Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to Ironworkers Local 549 in Wheeling.
The money will go toward an apprenticeship program, as well as new teaching equipment.
"When you expand the program, you will need more welding boots, which is more welding machines, teachers, and buildings," said Kevin Coulter, business manager, financial advisor, Ironworkers Local 549.
To that end, a new structure will be built to create more space for would-be workers, critically needed in the industry.
"With the Infrastructure Bill coming up and all the work we have in the future, we need to expand the apprentice ship so that we can get the manpower," Coulter said.
Ironworkers Local 549 has about 300 active members, but with projects ahead, it will need more than double that to get it all done. And then, they’ll need to nearly double that if the cracker plant is built in Dilles Bottom.
Local ironworkers have worked on the parking garage in Wheeling, the new Wheeling Police headquarters, The Highlands Sports Complex and all of the powerhouse expansions like the Mitchell and Harrison plants.
"Just with the Infrastructure Bill coming up, we have 10 bridges from Morgantown down I-79 down to Lost Creek, we have those bridges, and with everything else going on, there is going to be 75 municipal bridges in the state of West Virginia," Coulter said.
So, they hope this funding will be able to generate more interest in the profession in the Northern Panhandle.
"In order to expand, we need to get the membership," Coulter said.
See original article on wtov9.com.