Are Plumbing Apprentices Prepared to Fill the Shoes of Their Predecessors?
27 Sep 2016
By Andy Kireta Jr.
Vice President, Copper Development Association
Fear has spread across the country as homeowners and business owners discover high levels of lead in their drinking water systems. While many are focusing on who will be responsible for funding these lead replacement projects, the real question should be, “are their enough skilled laborers to complete these projects?”
Over half of America’s skilled trade employees are nearing retirement age, and fewer men and women are filling their positions. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational outlook for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is growing faster than average, stemming from new building construction and essential infrastructure repair and replacement projects.
To help train and test the skills of the top piping apprentices, the Copper Development Association (CDA) held a copper contest at the 9th Annual UA International Apprenticeship Competition organized by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA).
As part of the copper contest, apprentices from the United States, Canada and Australia fabricated a complicated project using copper tube and nearly all methods of copper installation including: soldering, brazing, roll-grooving, press-fitting, bending and t-drilling. Due to its durability, longevity and adaptability, copper and copper tube and fittings are used in a multitude of piping applications and by all specialties of the industry including plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, welders and HVACR technicians. Because copper is the preferred material for a variety of plumbing applications, the ability to install copper systems is one skill that is required of all piping specialists.
Eighteen out of the 32 competitors completed the entire piping project. The winners of the copper contest were:
- Plumber: Richard Dean, Waldorf, MD
- Pipe fitter: Dallas Crone, Oregon City, OR
- Welder: Todd Sullivan, Plimpton, MA
- Sprinkler fitter: William Dehn, Kinnelon, NJ
- Service Technician: Edward J. Jordan, Newark, CA
CDA donated all copper materials for the competition and was responsible for designing and judging the copper component of the competition, which lasted a total of four hours for each discipline. In addition to a commemorative copper trophy, the winners of the copper portion of the contest each received a $1,000 prize.