In the popular 80s movie, Flashdance, Jennifer Beals plays the strong female protagonist who defies stereotypes and works as a welder while moonlighting as a dancer. In real life, however, women welders are still in the minority. As of 2012, women made up only 4 percent of all welders, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most employers require welders, whether male or female, to hold certain certifications depending on the type of welding they do. One type of welding certification, the UA-21 certificate, comes from the United Association, the international union of plumbers, fitters, welders and HVAC service techs.
Certification provides welders an opportunity to validate their skills, as most welding certifications cover a certain type of weld or working with certain welding materials. The UA-21 welding certificate is a way for the welder to show her employer that she has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform UA-21 welds. Certification also promotes safety in the welding industry and assures consistency from welder to welder when performing UA-21 welds.
A UA-21 weld consists of welding a 2-inch double extra strong pipe with 0.436-inch wall thickness. The UA-21 weld works for pipes used for high and low pressure and temperature materials. UA-21 welds must be done in the 6G position without rotation or change in height. Welding in the 6G position requires doing the welds in four different positions, vertical, horizontal, overhead and flat surface. UA-21 welding utilizes the shielded metal arc welding process.
The UA utilizes independent Authorized Testing Facilities to give the UA-21 welding certification test. Each testing center sets up its own testing schedule, with many offering each test when enough welders express interest in that certification. A welder can register with her local testing facility by putting her name on a waiting list and submitting an application. The first part of obtaining a UA-21 certification is completing a welding demonstration, often called a welding proficiency demonstration. This allows the independent test facility to determine whether or not the welder is ready for the certification test. If she passes the welding proficiency demonstration, the welder can then fill out a UA Test Request Form. When the testing facility approves the request form, she sets up a day and time to take the UA-21 certification test.
Welders must fulfill certain requirements to take the certification test, including wearing proper personal protection equipment at all times while in the testing lab. The welding inspector running the test provides the testing pipe, called a pipe coupon, and the electrodes and filler wire. The UA-21 certification test takes three hours to complete. Because the UA runs a training fund that pays for the cost of UA certifications, welders don't have to pay a certification fee to earn the UA-21 certificate.
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