Chevron Speaks to Derrick Kualapai of Local 342, Plumbers and Steamfitters


What is your title?

Business Manager and Financial Secretary for the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 342.

What does the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 342, do?

We are one of thirty building trade union affiliates in the area that provides qualified skilled and trained workforce to contractors that work at facilities like Chevron and other refineries in the Bay Area.

What type of jobs do Local 342 members perform?

Our members work in many different sectors and industries including the petrochemical, biotech, automotive manufacturing, semiconductor, and commercial construction, among others, to build piping infrastructure that moves liquids, oils and gases. At Chevron, for example, Local 342 members perform primarily steam fitting and welding. If you look at a refinery, much of the piping, equipment, tanks and columns that you see are all built by the skilled, trained workforce of the Local 342.

How does someone get into the Local 342 apprentice program?

We are open to all residents who are over 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and a valid ID. Our applications for our next apprentice cycle are open from February 5 – 9. Check out our website for more information:

What does the program entail?

I am proud to say that Local 342 has a proven track record of graduating the industry’s top welders and steamfitters. Our apprentices attend classes for a minimum of two nights per week for five years while obtaining a minimum of 9,000 hours of on-the-job training. The training combines technical training in the classroom with practical work experience.

What type of skills do prospective applicants need to have?

We actually prefer to train our apprentices from the ground up to ensure they learn proper work place safety skills and techniques. We look for motivated applicants who are willing to show up to work on time and stay all day. Math is also very important to our work, so we recommend a strong base of 8th grade algebra and pre-algebra.

Are there other apprenticeship programs available to Richmond residents?

Richmond residents should check out RichmondBUILD which is a free pre-apprenticeship program. It provides the specific technical training necessary to work for a trade but also helps instill a good work ethic and basic competency skills. Local 342 places a lot of value on candidates from RichmondBUILD who have demonstrated strong work-ready skills.

What are the benefits of being a union member?

Joining a union puts you on a pathway to the middle class. In addition to good-paying wages, members also enjoy health and welfare benefits, including medical, dental and eye care. Working for union contractors has provided a great lifestyle for myself and my family.

What is it like working on Chevron projects?

Our agenda is to safely supply a skilled and trained workforce and working with Chevron has always been a positive experience. I have worked extensively at the Richmond Refinery, and I will say I am blessed to be in a position to continue to partner with the folks at Chevron year over year on projects.

What advice would you give for someone looking to start a career in a union?

Have a good work ethic, show up every day, stay all day and be committed to working safely. Construction is hard work and you need to be driven to do your best. The beauty of joining the industry through a union apprenticeship is that you’re allowed to learn as you go. There is no other industry that gives you high-quality training in a safe, supportive, learning environment.