Local 94 union hosts statewide contest for plumbers, pipefitters

2022-05-19 09:40:10 By : Ms. Jack Sun

CANTON – After more than four years of working and honing their skills, 33 apprentices from around Ohio are showing what they have learned.

The contestants have trained in plumbing, pipe fitting or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems) skills with union locals that are part of the United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Techs.

They have displayed their skills in a three-day competition this week at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 94, which is one of 15 United Association locals in Ohio.

"We spend a lot of money every year on our apprentices," said Dana Shanower, the training director for Local 94.

The union's apprenticeship program runs five years. An apprentice will work with a journeyman to learn processes and skills associated with the trade. Training teaches the apprentice to do a job safely and correctly.

"There's a right and a wrong way to do everything we do," Shanower said Wednesday.

Plumbers and Pipefitters apprentices work with local companies, while taking classes twice a week in the evenings. Apprentices spend time in classroom settings working on math and science, as well as learning how to use equipment and tools associated with the job.

After two years, an apprentice will focus on a preferred field, either plumbing, pipe fitting or HVAC.

United Association members can be found installing water systems in schools and medical grade gas lines in hospitals. They work with all types of pipe — steel, copper, PVC — in refineries, power plants, steel mills and other facilities.

"If it deals with a piece of pipe, we train for it here," Shanower said.

Logan Weiser, from Wooster, had been working as an electrician but decided to join Local 94 and train in HVAC. He was following his brother who also is a Local 94 member, but opted for the HVAC trade training because of the wages and benefits.

He pursued a trade over attending college because he didn't want the debt that can accumulate with college loans. He also liked that he could work full time while training. He works for Columbus-based Speer Mechanical, which has a branch in Wooster.

"There's not enough people and there's plenty of work to go around," Weiser said.

Canal Fulton resident Steve Lunsford said he tried college but it wasn't for him. He found a good factory job, but soon realized he had reached the top and couldn't advance with the company.

Instead of chasing a different factory job, Lunsford joined Local 94 and learned pipe fitting.

"You want a career and a good life, so why don't you get into trade," he said.

Adam Campbell earned two associate degrees and also had a good factory job, but Local 94 offered "a better opportunity for a career." He trained as a plumber.

Weiser, Lunsford and Campbell are Local 94's apprentices in the competition.

Judges for the event come from United Association locals around the country.

Steve Masterson, with Local 110 in Norfolk, Virginia, was brought in to judge the crane competition. Contestants have to work with a crane operator to rig a section of pipe and place it where it can be installed.

"It's communications, control and safety," Masterson said of the crane works. After rigging and securing the piece so it can be moved, apprentices use hand signals to communicate with the crane operator.

"You need to make sure you're confident in what you do, but you never ever get too confident," he said.

Teaching apprentices is important to the trade union growth and future, Masterson said. "A big part of the job is to pass on to them what we have learned."

Top finishers receive prizes and bragging rights for their locals. They also will participate in a regional competition at Louisville, Kentucky, in June. The national competition is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, later in the summer.

This year's competition is the first since the coronavirus pandemic, Shanower said.

Local 94 was slated to host the events in 2020 and again in 2021, but each year the union canceled because of the virus. This year, Shanower insisted that all contestants and judges be vaccinated.

"We did that for safety," Shanower said.