The Trades Need Millennials

The Trades Need Millennials
17 Nov 2016

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of plumbers, pipefitters and steam fitters is projected to grow as new construction opportunities arise and Baby Boomers retire. Yet, employers continue to report difficulty finding quality workers to fill the shoes of their aged workforce.capture

Like many high school graduates of today, Dale Powell packed up his belongings and headed for college. However, four years later he was unsure if he had chosen the right career path. Having worked with a plumber while in high school, Powell put aside his white-collar internship and instead began his apprenticeship in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He knew that one of the most secure jobs is that of a plumber. “There will always be new construction projects or a repair that needs to be made,” Powell said. “The same cannot be said for all white-collar positions.” This statement rings true for Millennials as employment opportunities for plumbers, pipefitters and steam fitters are projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Now, nearly 40 years after completing his apprenticeship, Powell is a master plumber and is employed as a project manager for the Copper Development Association (CDA). Along with his colleagues at CDA, he regularly visits United Association (UA) local unions, PHCC chapters, vocational school programs and contractors to participate in apprenticeship programs, conduct training courses and co-host competitions. Powell also regularly provides educational seminars and technical consultation to plumbing professionals across North America.

The training typically focuses on copper installation techniques and applications, including: standards, soldering and brazing, dissimilar metal joining, alternate no-flame joining, joint analysis, corrosion causes and prevention for long-term performance. If plumbers do not employ the proper joining methods, water and sewer lines could potentially break down, experience leaks and create major problems for customers. With copper being one of the most widely used materials in plumbing and piping systems across North America, it is imperative for plumbers to know every type of application and to be confident that they can tackle tough piping field applications.

“I find tremendous value in giving back and sharing this knowledge with the future workforce,” Powell said. “If no one is willing to teach the next generation, there will not be anyone left for the job.”


Winners of the 9th Annual UA International Apprenticeship Competition



  1. It’s going to get worse with all they new restrictions they keep coming up with and pressure that’s put on tradesmen. I find that many jobs that needs to be done takes 15 minutes to do, but after following all the safety laws. It takes a few hours just to set up for that one 15 minute job. And then your asked by the formen what’s taking you so long to finish the job. Now I wonder do they have a safety statistics for on the job stress condition related to following OSHA safety and making the former happy with time efficiently.

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