Front row: Vocational Rehabilitation Program Director Brenda Fitzgerald, Local Union 798 Financial Secretary-Treasurer Wade Pilgreen, Local 798 Business Manager Danny Hendrix, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. Second row: Local 798 Native American Affairs Liaison Bobby Gonzalez, Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley, Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, Director of Economic Development Daryl Legg, Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez, and Vocational Programs Director George Roach. Back row: At-Large Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, and Tribal Councilor Keith Austin.
Published May 1, 2017
TULSA — Cherokee Nation’s Career Services department is teaming up with the Pipeliners Local Union 798 to train Cherokee Nation citizens to be welders, journeymen or welder helpers.
As part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed April 21 in Tulsa, the Cherokee Nation will refer promising Cherokee workers to the Local Union 798 for training, and for jobs across the United States as they arise.
“The Cherokee Nation is working hard to connect our citizens to stable, high-paying jobs that provide great benefits, and we feel our partnership with the Local Union 798 is giving tribal citizens yet another pathway to employment for jobs that are in high demand,” said Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who toured the union facility in Tulsa recently. “While the physical and mental demands associated with this field of work aren’t for everyone, we have citizens in the Cherokee Nation who are going to thrive in this environment and several have already expressed an interest.”
Through the agreement, training is free to Cherokee Nation citizens.
Local Union 798 has about 6,500 members, many who are members of federally recognized tribes, and can connect qualified Cherokee Nation helpers and welders to projects in more than 40 states. Travel and overtime are often required for the jobs, which are in a variety of climates and weather conditions.
“This MOU is historic because it means tribes, especially Cherokee Nation, will be at the table early in the development process so that we can voice opinions about cultural resources and natural resources before pipeline routes are determined and finalized here in Oklahoma,” said Bobby Gonzalez, tribal liaison of the union. “The union and tribal government will have each other’s interest in mind.”
Local Union 798’s training specializes in downhill welding, which accounts for the vast majority of work involved with the contract jobs. Most work for union members involves natural gas or oil pipelines.
Entry level helpers have the potential to earn more than $100,000 per year, while some experienced welders belonging to Local Union 798 earn well above that, not including their benefits.
“This isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle and a career path that can change someone’s life,” Local 798 Business Manager Danny Hendrix said. “This agreement could provide job opportunities for Cherokee Nation citizens that include nice wages, per diems, pensions, health care, 401(k) and structure. We want to help build careers. That’s really what it’s all about, and it just makes sense for us to work with tribal nations.”
Helpers connected to jobs through Local Union 798 are required to complete 5,000 hours of field work before applying for the union’s welder training. The training courses are offered three times per year and last 14 weeks.
“Our Career Services department already provides training in carpentry, welding, masonry, electrical work, heavy construction, culinary and other trades, which allows us to develop and encourage work habits and skills that promote employability and self-sufficiency,” said Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley. “Our partnership with Local Union 798 will give Cherokee Nation citizens yet another avenue for training and good-paying jobs.”
Cherokee Nation Career Services offers vocational and educational programs, employment programs, youth programs, skills assessments and certifications, and a variety of other resources for individuals and businesses.
For more information on the training and job opportunities available through the Local Union 798 agreement, contact Cherokee Nation Career Services at 918-453-5555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.