, Antoine Basden considers himself blessed to be a third-year pipefitter/welder apprentice with Local 286 in Austin, TX. He grad- uated from the Fort Hood VIP Welding program and feels like he has finally found his calling. “I got caught up in the recession,” he said, “like so many people back in 2008.” Antoine graduated from Howard University in Maryland with a sociology degree. He quickly found work in his field. He was promoted, bought a house, and then the recession hit. “It was one of those situations where those of us that had the least amount of seniority were the first to go. ere were immediate cutbacks,” he said. Networking back then was not quite as easy as it is today. e Internet had not taken such a strong- hold in the networking world, so Antoine called all of his friends looking for recommendations. He moved on to work for Enterprise Rental Cars. “At Enterprise, I met a guy who was going into the military,” Antoine said. is piqued his inter- est, and the gentleman told Antoine about the Army’s options for those with a college degree. “I needed some stability and money,” Antoine said, “so I joined. I went in as a Specialist, and I’m glad I did. It helped me fast track through the NCO ranks. I really liked it. I was an aircra mechanic. I wanted to do something with my hands. I wanted a challenge. e wars were still going on. I went from Basic to Fort Eustis in Virginia and then to Fairbanks, AK. I spent a year in Iraq, and then two years back in Alaska, and then I was sent to Fort Hood in Texas. I was in the Army for six years.” When it was time to transition out, Antoine was looking for something that would offer him an op- portunity for a lifelong career. “My buddy was in a different unit, and I heard him talking about the VIP program,” Antoine said. “I tracked the VIP guys down and literally hassled them once a month for 16 months, saying I was coming! I wanted it so bad. I got into the program in the fall of 2015 and graduated in January 2016 with my UA 100 weld- ing certification.” Antoine stated that he struggled in the beginning. “My in- structors were awesome,” he said. “We worked them to death. I was always ask- ing for help. ey would stay in the booths with us and guide our hands to show us what to do. One day, I just got it.” Antoine was in the fih welding class at Fort Hood. He said that when he first talked to his commanding officers about the program, they had not been familiar with it. “I wasn’t sure if this was just unique to my company,” he said. “When the program started, it took a little bit for the word to get out, but now there’s a waiting list. Aer I went through the program, I was telling everyone how great it was. It was like I was promoting people to get out of the Army,” Antoine laughed. When it was time to pick a local union to con- tinue his apprenticeship, Antoine said the fact that he had met a fabulous woman, who is now his wife, was the deciding factor for him to stay in Texas. He knew that Austin was a booming metropolis, and he liked the pay scale and benefits that Local 286 offered. Antoine and his wife own a home in Bel- ton, and he commutes about an hour to Austin every day. Working for the mechanical contractor, e Porter Company, Antoine has been on multi- ple jobsites since his graduation and has loved them all. He’s worked in a fabrication shop, in a clean-room environment, and he has recently been dispatched to work at e Independent in Austin, which is being described as the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi River. He said, “I’m just really excited to get out there. I like fabri- cation shops, because they’re structured and con- trolled, but I love the jobsite, because that’s where you learn so many things.” When asked how he CAREERops Changing Careers Later in Life 10 Antoine Basden At 37 years old