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Plumbing/pipefitting apprenticeship, craft training program develop lifelong skills

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As human resources director at Pacific Rim Mechanical, Rick Amison is always on the lookout for an Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., San Diego graduate or trainee.

"Part of my job is to hire people," said Amison, who serves as chair of the Plumbing/Pipefitting Committee at ABC. "And if I can find an ABC graduate or student, I will hire that person right away. We recognize the outstanding training that ABC provides with its teachers, facilities and curriculum, and we know that ABC-trained employees will be an asset to our organization."

Currently, 28 of the 380 Pacific Rim Mechanical employees are enrolled in either the plumbing/pipefitting apprenticeship or craft training programs at ABC, and if Amison could hire more, he would.

The four-year program offers two tracks. The apprenticeship track is approved by the state of California and fulfills the requirements of state prevailing wage work. The craft track offers the same high-quality training without burdensome regulations and paperwork. When they graduate, both apprentices and craft trainees are skilled journeymen and have earned most of the credits required by the San Diego Community College for an associate degree.

"Both programs are invaluable to contractors and trainees," Amison said. "For companies like Pac Rim, which do predominantly private work, the craft program is ideal. For mechanical contractors that build public works projects, the apprenticeship program is exactly what they need to compete for projects and train their workforce."

Apprentices and craft trainees receive on-the-job training coupled with classroom work at the Poway facility. Students work 40 hours a week on sites where they are mentored by journeymen, who monitor the various tasks they must learn. Each student is required to complete a specified number of hours on the required task, depending on its level of difficulty.

In addition, trainees attend class two nights a week, where they receive hands-on training in the new plumbing/pipefitting laboratory, as well as traditional classroom instruction in theory, safety, blueprint reading, code and other training pertinent to their trade. When they graduate, students will have received approximately 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and more than 700 hours of classroom instruction.

"The lab is tremendous," Amison said. "Field workers like to work with their hands, and the lab offers an opportunity to match up the theory learned in the classroom with hands-on training. Then, when the apprentices go out into the field, they already know the process for completing a particular installation and what needs to be done to do the job right the first time."

As chair, Amison wants to continue improving the program, making it more exciting for the apprentices.

"The lab is an ongoing project itself," Amison said. "As chair, I want to make sure that we utilize it to its fullest potential and ensure that it remains state of the art.

"I want these young people to understand that they can begin this program knowing absolutely nothing about construction and in a few short years, learn a trade they can take anywhere in the world - and they get paid while they are learning. Where else can you receive that kind of training?"

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