NORTHWOOD - The Piping Industry Training Center is training, then finding jobs, for people in the plumbing and steamfitting business.
|Instructor Kevin Weimer (left) directs a machine to cut plate steel as journeyman Ruster Bilger (right) takes note of the work during a class at the Piping Industry Training Center. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
And the center is very good at what it does.
The center has 100-percent placement of all its graduates, according to Scott Lopez, business representative for the United Association of Plumbers Steamfitters Service Mechanics, Local Union 50, of Northwest Ohio.
The center "is our best kept secret," said Lopez.
"We teach apprentices anything that deals with piping," he explained.
One-hundred-thirty-three people are currently enrolled in the five-year program. Already 300 applications have been taken in for the 30 open slots for classes that start in September 2013.
Students are apprentices while they're in the program, and graduate with their journeyman card.
The center encompasses 12 counties, from Indiana to Sandusky, and Michigan south to Bluffton. It's one of five such training centers in Ohio.
Students take classes at least two nights a week, some including distance learning, and are on the job site as soon as they're enrolled, following journeymen.
"When they get accepted into the program, you get a job right away," stated Lopez.
An apprentice is a worker who learns a skilled trade through planned, supervised on-the-job training and related classroom instruction.
"You are earning a paycheck while you learn," said Rick Salisbury, the center's training director.
And every six months they get a raise of 5 percent, he added.
That hands-on learning is an integral part of the program.
For instance, within one of the plumbing labs sits a sand pit. Students must take a blueprint of the building for which the pit is the foundation, and put the plumbing in where necessary.
|Kevin Strezynski (left) sketches notes and measurements on a sheet of paper as students (from left) Glenn Rentner, Mike McQueary and Kerry Young discuss their notes during a drawing class at the Piping Industry Training Center.
The center has been housed in a large blue building on Caple Road since 2001. All students learn welding, plumbing, pipefitting, safety and drafting in labs, as well as financial management and the history of the union, in classrooms.
"They can't choose a discipline," said Salisbury.
There are 35 instructors. All are graduates of the program, as are Lopez and Salisbury.
The center is 100-percent funded by the union and contractors, making it possible for someone to attend and only pay $350 for books each year.
And, "you leave with a journeyman's plumbing license," Salisbury stated.
By the time you're done, you're so well rounded in your skill set "you can do whatever you want," he added.
The 33 graduates this year have, between them, 345 certificates of skills.
The center takes both men and women.
Six of the current 133 apprentices are women, said Salisbury. "We would love to see more women get involved," he stated.
A graduate can expect to make about $15 per hour, or $30,000 in their first year, and top out at $50,000, according to Lopez. The center only accepts the number of people it thinks it can find jobs for. This year, 33 apprentices will leave after their five years; 30 will take their place.
Three years ago, business was not good, so no students were taken.
Now, "work is looking good," Salisbury stated.
Only nine people of the 133 enrolled are currently unemployed, Salisbury said.
Work sites have included the BP Refinery, GM Powertrain, Cooper Tire in Findlay, Vehtek and Bowling Green State University, and the expansion at Wood County Hospital.
Apprentices could earn college credits towards a degree program at Owens Community College.
The center also has a VIP program where it will offers its five-year program to soldiers still in the military, and when they're done with their service, place them in a job. It also is involved with Helmets to Hardhats, for people who already have been honorably discharged from their military service.
An explanation of the job descriptions, and what courses are necessary, to graduate from the Piping Industry Training Center in Northwood are:
A plumber installs and repairs pipe systems that carry water, waste drainage, natural and medical gas in buildings. They join pipes and install fixtures like bathtubs, toilets, dishwashers, and water heaters. Often they design these systems or they may work from blueprints and drawings.
A steamfitter installs many varieties of piping systems. They lay out, fabricate and assemble pipes from drawings, blueprints and specifications, and also install and service state-of-the art controls and piping systems for power generation, pharmaceutical manufacturing, food processing and refrigeration, petroleum refinery, and chemical and petrochemical processing. They also complete environmental control systems in schools, hospitals, hotels, motels, airports, mall, high-rise offices and apartment buildings.
Students in these two programs could expect to take such classes as basic pipefitting, hydronic heating theory, oil and gas controls and service, hazard recognition, isometric drawing, blueprint reading, and first aid/CPR, among a score of other classes.
Mechanical equipment service people install, service and repair industrial, commercial, residential refrigeration, air conditioning, heating equipment, motors, compressors, temperature controls, circulating/ventilating equipment and control circuits according to blueprints and engineering specifications.
Students take classes in refrigeration, electrical codes and controls, warm air heating, air conditioning, electricity, and more.
All classes and explanations of the programs can be found on the center's Web site, at www.nwopitc.com.
Application forms also can be found on the Web site.