By CARL GREEN
Belleville, IL – You could say Bruce Rakers is just at the beginning of his career with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 101. After all, he is in the third year of a five-year apprenticeship.
But you could also say he’s one of the best in the business. The soft-spoken native of O’Fallon, IL, has already won in state and regional apprentice competitions, and next month he will compete in the UA national/international contest.
Rakers, 31, has worked for two years for Bergmann-Roscow Plumbing in Belleville, most recently at Memorial Hospital.
Rich Fuess, the Local 101 training coordinator, got Rakers into the state competition earlier this year, which he won. He then advanced into a regional competition for UA District 4, which encompasses 11 states. He won there, too, in early June in St. Paul, MN.
“The whole time he was up there, I kept asking him, ‘How do you think you’re doing?’ and he’d say, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’” Fuess told Local 101 members at a meeting June 28. “I think I was more surprised than he was when they called his name for first place.”
The finals, set for Aug. 12-19 in Ann Arbor, MI, will have representatives from all six UA districts in the U.S. and Canada and one more competitor – a plumber from Australia.
HARD AT IT
Fuess said they will be hard at it from the first day. “They get going on their projects and they work all day, with a short break for lunch, and that’s about it,” he said.
Rakers grew up in O’Fallon, IL, went to O’Fallon Township High School and still lives there. He’s married to Megan and has a son Devin, 8, and daughter Paisley, 4.
“To be honest, we don’t know, and they’re not saying anything about it,” he said. “They gave us a little bit of paperwork about it, but it’s very vague on what the competition will encompass. They’re keeping it under very tight wraps.”
But he’s learned one thing – that the competitions require the same skills he uses on the job.
“Pretty much the whole competition overall is the same thing I do on a daily basis,” he said. “It went from a complete rough-in for the vent, a rough-in for the water supply to hanging the fixtures, and that’s stuff we do every day.”
The regional competition included two written tests, one for general knowledge about such issues as sprinkler fitting, pipefitting and HVAC, and the other was more specialized.
“It was very specific on just plumbing and plumbing code,” Rakers said. “It’s important. Obviously, you can’t do the job if you don’t know the code.”
The regional competition took four days – two for the written tests and two for hands-on projects that included preparing a mock wall for a toilet, lavatory and water heater, including water and gas lines.
Local 101 Business Manager Scott Dietz told the members it was the first time the local has had a regional winner.
“I think it’s pretty big, and I think we all do,” he said. “He went out to represent us in District 4 in the apprentice contest for plumbing, and he won first place. That’s the first time we’ve gotten first place.
“It’s working out pretty good. I couldn’t be happier.”