By TIM ROWDEN
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, in partnership with the Mechanical Contractors Association and the Plumbing Industry Council, graduated its second class of “Champions” last week.
The 11 pre-apprentice participants in the intensive six-week program are now on their way to rewarding careers with good pay and benefits and a lifetime of learning, skills development and opportunity.
Champions is an acronym for Creating Hometown Advantages for Minority Participation In Our Neighborhoods.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing here,” said Local 562 Business Manager John O’Mara. “This program was designed about two years ago to bring our community where it needs to be. When we go to work every day in Festus, in Kingdom City, in St. Louis City, we need a workforce from those communities.
“Together with our contractor partners and within our workforce, listening to their needs and the needs of the community, which has been asking for it for a long time, we’ve created a program to do just that.
“We didn’t just want them to come in and send them out to work and ‘Good luck with everything.’ We wanted to get some kind of head start for these young men and women, and I think we have found a good program to do that along with the MCA and PIC.”
In a ceremony Nov. 5 at Local 562’s training center in Earth City, Mo., the latest group of participants received their diplomas and were welcomed into their apprenticeships with participating contractors. They included:
- Olivia Siebert, apprenticed pipefitter with C &R Mechanical.
- Tyler Davis, apprenticed pipefitter with Charles E. Jarrell Contracting Company.
- Daryl Yarber, apprenticed pipefitter with Corrigan Company.
- Orlando Singleton and Byron Stepps, apprenticed plumbers with Deluca Plumbing.
- Jordan Clay, apprenticed pipefitter and Trey Perry, apprenticed plumber with Haberberger Mechanical.
- Aliyah Broyles, apprenticed plumber with Icon Mechanical.
- Kirsten Springer, apprenticed pipefitter with Mechanical Solutions.
- Cori Crider, apprenticed plumber with Murphy Company.
- Justin Poindexter, apprenticed pipefitter with Rock Hill Mechanical.
“This is an important occasion in these men and women’s lives as they assume their new careers,” said Fred Searcy, director of minority recruitment for Local 562.
‘JUST THE BEGINNING’
“It’s just the beginning for you,” Local 562 Assistant Business Manager Brian Nichols told the new apprentices. “We’ve given you some basic knowledge of what our expectations are going to be for you in the future. The apprentices in the back, the fourth and fifth year apprentices, they’re three-quarters of the way through their training, and they can tell you it’s a task. You’ve got to work hard every day and learn something. You’ve got to come to school in our block training, be attentive in your work and you’ve got to come to night school every week. We expect 100 percent participation in those classes. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you. It’s just the beginning. We have a lot of expectations, but we know you’re going to live up to those expectations. So keep making us proud.
“All we ask you to do is do your best every day,” Nichols said. “If you learn something every day, you’ve accomplished something. Push yourself, challenge yourself, ask questions. Make sure you’re on time and give our contractors eight hours of good work for eight hours of good pay. That’s what we expect.”
‘YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON YOUR EFFORT’
Representing the Mechanical Contractors Association, Alan Bolt, vice president of Icon Mechanical, noted the wide variety of the apprentices’ backgrounds. “They come for many different backgrounds – Air Force, education, the public service sectors and small business owners.
“We’re proud that you’re graduating today,” he told the apprentices. “This is a people business. It’s built on trust, long-lasting relationships and friendships. Your success is our success. If you’re successful, everybody in this room is successful.
“Today, as Champions, you all start in the same place. Your future and the difference you make in this industry will depend on your effort and how much you put into it. You can get as much out of this as you put into it.”
A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY
Xavier Gassier, director of operations for the Plumbing Industry Council, noted the opportunities now open to the apprentices through their union membership and ongoing training.
“Find another job that pays your way to learn, that pays you while you learn, pays more as you learn and then goes on for the remainder of your career for the rest of your life and invests to make sure you have the training to be world class,” Gassier said.
“And you can go as far as you like with those skills. You can go on and get your master’s license, maybe become a foreman, maybe decide in a couple of years ‘I like this a lot. I’ve learned a lot,’ and maybe become a contractor. You can take that training and those skills and that knowledge and you can go anywhere with it. Not anywhere in St. Louis, not anywhere in Missouri or America. You can literally go anywhere in the world and get a great good paying job just like that.”
Champion Cori Crider spoke for the class, expressing her gratitude for the six-week program.
“This has been for many of us a life changing experience,” Crider said. “It has allowed us to begin a journey in which we will become skilled tradespeople.
“Over the last six weeks we have bonded together through technical projects, field trips and so many class discussions,” Crider said. “We’ve received instruction and insight and inspiration from some of the best plumbing and visiting instructors that they could. We’ve seen some of the largest construction projects and innovative fabrication shops in the market. And we’ve met skilled trades people, politicians, medical professionals and captains of industry. We’ve joined as brothers and sisters of Local 562.”