On September 8th, the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Technicians Local 776 (“UA 776”) in Lima hosted a grand opening of their new state of the art apprenticeship training center. This facility adds 8,000 square feet to the previous training center, and represents a $1.8 million dollar expansion. Discussions surrounding this expansion began three years ago, which was funded entirely through private dollars, with no taxpayer funds contributing to the project.

Jaret McKinley, JATC Committee member and program instructor stated “It’s really important that this training program is funded by our membership—no state or federal dollars were used. It is funded by us and our local community, and it adds a lot of value to our community. The industries we serve need qualified labor.”

Business manager Mike Knisely spoke prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony about how the key component to success is training, and that UA 776 is in the training and skilled manpower business.

When asked about the new facility, Mr. Knisely commented “Since I am getting closer to retiring as the Business Manager of UA Local 776 it has been refreshing to see the training program come so far in the last thirty years. I will leave the program in a better place than it was when I began, which is really the true job of a labor representative; to improve the lives of our members whether it is through better wages, fringe benefits, safety on the jobsite or improved training opportunities. I can honestly say ‘Mission Accomplished’.”

UA 776 trains a diverse skill set. The facility has the equipment to train for plumbing, pipefitting, refrigeration, HVAC, hydronics, welding, torching and other certifications such as medical gas, back flow prevention, foreman training, and rigging.

The new addition added an upgraded pipefitting lab, welding lab, and two classrooms. The pipefitting lab houses such technology as orbital welding, which is used by apprentices on projects for companies like Dannon Yogurt and Proctor & Gamble. The welding lab has twenty booths that each include all the tools needed to master the craft. The facility is able to offer training for over one-hundred welding certificates.

The new classrooms all have video and smart board capabilities. The in-class training equipment includes training software that offers 360 degree/virtual reality views of a jobsite. This training approach is more interactive and visual, which helps with learning and engagement.

The apprenticeship program, which now boats 68 apprentices has grown.Thirty years ago, the program was about half the size it is now. Additionally, the facility offers upgrade training for journeymen. It is through this growth that the need for a larger facility became apparent.

Admission requirements to the apprenticeship program include a high school diploma/GED and that the applicant be at least 18 years of age. It is a five year program that combines classroom instruction with on the job training. The program requires a minimum of 216 hours of classroom instruction and a minimum of 1500 hours of on the job training each year. Applications are accepted year round, while interviews are conducted once a year. The participants are all very dedicated, which contributes to the programs 99% retention rate.

Like most apprenticeship programs, this program allows students to earn while they learn, and to graduate debt free. Apprentices earn 36 college credits towards an Associate’s Degree at Owens College, completing approximately 60% of the coursework needed for the 90 credit degree. This is all debt free to apprentices, who upon completion of the program will be earning top wages.

Jim DeMoss has been the training coordinator for UA 776 for the past six years and is very proud of the new facility. “The new facility will aid in preparing apprentices for upcoming work in refineries, chemical plants, factories, hospitals, schools, and universities. There is a real need for highly skilled workers. With the expansion, we are able to accommodate larger class sizes than in the past to accommodate this demand.”

ACT Ohio offers congratulations to UA 776 on their new facility and applauds all the new training opportunities afforded to apprentices.