The American Welding Society (AWS) estimated that there would be a shortage of industry professionals in 2020 in part due to the fact that there had been a shortage of those teaching traditional trade. However, the employment trend has been growing tremendously with a surge in specific regions based on industry demand.
Ten years ago, Aubrey Greene recognized the trends playing out in the welding sector and founded his organization, Rig Fab Energy Services, a provider of qualified and certified industry professionals for the industrial, construction and power industries. Specifically, Greene had a determination to fill the gap by providing education, training and certification to veterans and disadvantaged communities. And Greene was the perfect person for the job. He is a highly skilled quality assurance/quality control professional with more than 20 years of experience. He also holds many accreditations, including AWS Certified Welding Inspector (CWI), AWS Certified Welding Educator (CWE) and is a Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA-1) Lead Nuclear Auditor.
Education, training, placement
Rig Fab, which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, La., consists of three main divisions: education, energy and placement. Each division has a mission to help change lives and create a positive impact for people living in economically challenged communities. Rig Fab’s education services focus on partnering with institutions, trade schools and Job Corps through a special enrichment program. This program allows these schools to certify their students as an AWS Certified Welder, advancing the students’ welding careers and opening the opportunity for a better future with higher pay and/or leadership roles.
Brandon Greene is one of Rig Fab’s first graduates and benefited by going through the placement program.
“I practiced and studied day and night,” Brandon says. “In a short period of time, I was able to pass a weld test and had a job making 10 times more than I was before. Not only did I have a job, I knew a trade and had a career I’m proud of and enjoy.”
Throughout its 10 years in business, Rig Fab has earned a reputation for providing qualified and certified industry professionals for industrial construction and power industries all over the United States. Individuals that take advantage of their educational services benefit, but so, too, do customers that take advantage of the company’s energy services.
Chun W Choi, manager of computational modeling and senior machinery specialist at SunCoke Energy, says Rig Fab provides “great and professional engineering solutions on equipment fabrication, and especially quality control service to ensure we receive high quality products from our fabricator vendor.”
Energy services can include categories such as non-destructive examination, quality assurance/quality control inspectors, AWS CWI services, engineering, American Petroleum Inspection and other complementary energy services.
Rig Fab’s placement services has become one of the leading employment sources for welding organizations. Rig Fab has a fleet of AWS welders and inspectors that are contracted to assist on demand. Students who participate in the education services enrichment program at their school or institute have the opportunity to join Rig Fab’s placement services, increasing the possibility for quick or even immediate hire.
Kalen Russell took advantage of Rig Fab’s services after an eight-year career in the U.S. Army. Today, Russell is trained and gainfully employed as a structural welder.
“I have a competitive advantage over most of the employees at the Corpus Christi LNG plant that I work at because of the skills that Rig Fab has instilled in me,” Russell says.
As Rig Fab built relationships with schools in surrounding economically challenged communities, Greene quickly saw a need for assistance.
“My life’s mission has been to change lives,” Greene begins, “and that focus has been the catalyst for the foundation and my desire to truly make a difference. My goal is to implement industry-based workforce initiatives that will produce skilled craftsmen, resulting in a positive impact for economically challenged communities.”
To that end, Greene established the Bridge the Gap (BTG) Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on closing the skills gap between disadvantaged communities, including transitioning soldiers and veterans, and the welding industry by providing industry-specific educational training.
Through the help of Rig Fab partners and donors, graduates of the program will become AWS Certified Welders, which is an Industry Based Certification (IBC) and serves as a recognized credential. This credential is portable within the industry and will allow participants to have various career opportunities that will positively impact their lives.
“I am not going to let a student miss out on an education opportunity because they don’t have gas money,” Greene says. “I am not going to sit idly and watch a graduate pass on a $35 per hour job because they can’t afford a plane ticket. I was in their shoes before. I am steadfast that BTG is going to eliminate those roadblocks for our students.”
Along with an intensive accelerated training program, other services include resume writing, interviewing skills, life skills, job placement and attainment of a high school diploma for the participants who need it. The mission of BTG is to provide realistic, sustainable career opportunities through high-level, industry-specific education in a reasonable and timely manner.
Through Greene’s organization, Rig Fab has been a pioneer in the evolution to empower individuals who lack the direction for a career path, but were motivated to improve their lives. To fill the gap, Rig Fab has continued to partner with students, schools and industry-specific organizations to offer the necessary training, education and tools to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged communities and veterans.
Every year, the list of impacted individuals grows. Trevor Howard, as yet another example, served in the U.S. Army for three and a half years before attending Rig Fab. Today, he is employed at the River Bend nuclear power plant in southeast Louisiana.
“The Bridge the Gap Foundation changed my life,” Howard says. “I have never been as appreciative about anything else as I am about the way Rig Fab helped me.”