The United Association held its Inaugural Tripartite Meeting earlier this fall at the UA Local Union 597 training center in Mokena, Ill., to discuss and share information on energy issues. The meeting was the first of what is anticipated to be annual “state of the union” energy forum.

The tripartite is composed of contractors, union officials and representatives from leaders in energy production, including Duke Energy, Exelon, Sunoco and others.

At this year’s event, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman served as guest speaker. In his address, he stressed the energy industry’s need for skilled workers. According to the association, he praised the UA and Local 597 for their outstanding training programs designed to prepare workers to build the pipelines and power plants that will provide energy security.

“Future success in ensuring America’s energy security will depend heavily on our ability to recruit, educate and train highly skilled workers,” Bodman told the attendees.

In terms of meeting the energy needs of the future, Bodman added, “Our job is to innovate as well as leverage existing technology to produce new and better ways to power our homes, our businesses and our cars and trucks.”

From research into biomass fuels like corn-based ethanol to a nuclear “renaissance” in the United States, an influx of energy construction work is eminent. Early signs of the big push can be seen throughout the country.

According to William P. Hite, General President of the UA, America is enjoying the most extensive construction boom since World War II and the energy sector is driving that boom. Within the UA, the time local unions spent on pipelines added up to 2 million hours in the last year, and it could double in the next year.

Hite says the UA has made a $130 million annual commitment to training, with a goal of 50,000 apprentices in training by 2008, creating an infrastructure of mobile training facilities, online studies, accelerated training and other educational options.