Louisiana Local 470, Westlake Honor Apprenticeship Program Graduates

IAM Local 470 (District W2021) joined Westlake Chemical to honor recent graduates of a joint apprenticeship program at their Lake Charles, La., facility.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the apprenticeship program. It began in 1953 with PPG, then Axiall, and now continues with Westlake.

“As a member of Local 470, I take great pride in the fact that these apprentices are guided and trained by fellow union members,” said IAM District W2021 President and Directing Business Representative Chuck Bennett. “The workers who are able to get into this apprenticeship program are blessed to be trained by some of the best journeymen I know, and I challenge each graduate to train the future apprentices that come through the program.”

The state-accredited program oversees the training and graduation of Journeyman-level craftsman from the electrical, instrument, machinist, pipefitting, and welding fields. It combines at-home study with on-the-job training with journeymen bookwork from the Penn Foster curriculum. 

“Throughout the program, apprentices rotate around the plant and work with all the different crafts,” said IAM Local 470 member and 2019 Apprentice of the Year Bethany Price. “It helps them learn the different areas of the plant, and get to know the people they will work alongside of throughout their career.” 

The program’s leadership is comprised of three salary committee members: Chairman Chris Bellon, Chris Arendt, and David Urdiales; four union members: Union Apprentice Chairman Charles Cubbage, Jon Bel, Bethany Price, and Tim Veillion; and is supported by company sponsor Stephen Kleibert and Tracie Kadlubar and Melissa Hardy, with the training department.

“The IAM is always looking for apprenticeship opportunities that uplift our members, their families, and their communities,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey Wallace. “We continue to be extremely proud of the partnership between Local 470 and Westlake and send our congratulations to these new graduates.”

COVID-19 precluded several graduation ceremonies, so the 2023 event honored graduates from the 2019, 2020, and 2023 programs, to include:

• 2019: Bethany Price, instrumentation; Pat Sullivan, electrical, Jon Bel, electrical; and Dustin Broussard, instrumentation.

• 2020: Jordan Hebert, instrumentation; Hunter Johnson, electrical; and Logan Basden, electrical.

• 2023: Ryan Dupris, electrical; and Ethan Schexnider, instrumentation.

“I feel the apprenticeship program creates an encouraging learning environment that leads to lifelong employees,” said Price. “I am truly grateful I was given the opportunity to join the instrument apprentice program, it has taught me the skills I need to succeed in this industry.”

Recent instrumentation graduate Ethan Schexnider echoed Price. 

“I think the program is a great tool to better grasp the field. The program has given me much more confidence in the field of Instrumentation which is what I went to school for,” said Schexnider. “I would recommend it to others that are interested. If anyone is serious about going into instrumentation, the program is the best possible starting point I can think of, once you have a degree or the basic knowledge of what Instrumentation is.”

The program currently has five apprentices.

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