May 19, 2022 - News

Union representing Philly carpenters dives into the future

Illustration of a hammer on a diving board over a pool.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new regional facility will soon better prepare union carpenters to help build the 21st century energy grid by training them to work underwater.

Driving the news: The Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, which represents Philadelphia Local 158, will open a dive school later this year.

  • The move comes after the union council bought a former diving academy site in Sicklerville, New Jersey, for $1 million.

Why it matters: The facility will be the only union-owned dive school in the U.S. offering underwater training, Frank Mahoney, a spokesperson for the regional carpenters council, tells Axios.

  • Tradesmen trained in diving will be critical as New Jersey and the nation invest more heavily in constructing offshore wind farms to produce electricity.

State of play: For the first time, the carpentry union will offer its own training in underwater welding, diving certifications and diving safety requirements, among other things.

  • Dive training has been traditionally limited for the carpenters union because it lacked a dedicated facility, requiring costly partnerships.

Details: The union will offer a four-year program at the 10,000-square-foot facility free of charge for apprentices and union members.

  • A journeyman diver can earn around $90 an hour, Mahoney notes.

Zoom out: The Biden administration has committed to leasing federal waters around the U.S. coastline to wind power developers over the coming years, with large auctions for leases set for the New York and New Jersey coasts.

What they're saying: Mahoney says the union diving school is expected to become a destination for carpenters and apprentices in the Philadelphia region and across the country.

  • "The offshore wind industry is coming," he said. "America has been behind in it. It's coming this way, and we want to be sure that we have the best trained, most skilled, safest American workers to build these turbines for American consumers."

Du'Juan Lewis, a member of Piledrivers and Divers Local 474 who attended the former New Jersey diving facility years ago, tells Axios the school changed his life, allowing him to help build major infrastructure and commercial projects across the U.S.

  • Lewis credits the training with higher paychecks and more consistent work.
  • "We need more kids to join the school, join the union … get the training that we have so we can compete against countries and we can be more energy efficient," Lewis says.

What to watch: There's no timeline yet for when the first cohort will train at the union dive school.


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