By TIM ROWDEN
Earth City, MO – Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 hosted a ribbon cutting at its state-of-the-art training center at 3755 Corporate Trail Drive to mark the official opening of the facility. The training center opened in the summer of 2020 but with COVID-19 restrictions, the official grand opening was delayed until Sept. 22.
“We’ve waited two years to open these doors officially and we’re proud to have this facility,” Local 562 Business Manager John O’Mara said.
Members voted to pay out of their own wages for the training center to ensure the highest quality training for apprentices and ongoing training for Local 562 journeymen and women.
“Without our members, our training center would not be possible,” O’Mara said. “There is a lot to be proud of, but their hard work has truly made our training center state of the art. We cannot wait to train the future.”
O’Mara also thanked Local 562’s vendors, owners, contractors, and partners for their generous product donations and for “working together to make every day work better and make Missouri the best it can be.
“We are feeling thankful for the relationships we have built over the years and look forward to the next 100 years,” he added.
ADDRESSING THE WORKER SHORTAGE
“There are a lot of reasons this training center is here,” O’Mara said. “But one thing I know – in every industry, you see that people need help. They need skilled help. We’re always hearing of all these shortages of manpower all around the country. It’s here in St. Louis, too, but this building is going to change that. We brought in over 500 apprentices here in past two-and-a-half years.
“What do we do about these shortages? What do we do about the skilled workforce? Our solution is two things, education and training, and this building fills those gaps. It gives us the workforce we need. Our instructors are the cream of the crop. They’re teaching. They’re motivating. They’re out on the job sites getting these young men and women ready in their first five years. We just keep figuring it out.”
SERVING THE REGION
The grand opening was attended by elected officials including St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.
“We’re right in the middle of both of these regions,” O’Mara said. “And I think we’re in a good spot to help both regions.”
INTERNATIONAL UNION LEADERS
The event was attended by leaders of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) including General President Mark McManus, UA General Secretary-Treasurer and former business manager of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 Pat Kellett, and Mike O’Mara, International Representative of the UA.
“The United Association is 133 years young, and we’re larger than we’ve ever been,” McManus said. “That is a wonderful, proud thing for every rank-and-file member of the United Association who are part of a growing and expanding union movement, not a shrinking contract. Because this isn’t a job, it’s a career.”
Pat Kellett congratulated O’Mara on his work for building the state-of-the-art training center. “We’re here because of John O’Mara and his vision,” Kellett said. “John, I can’t commend you enough for your vision. And you’re 100 percent right, this is all about the members. What you’re doing for the men and women of the St. Louis area is fantastic.”
Kellett noted the importance of Local 562 contractors in keeping the training center up-to-date on new technologies in the industry. “We don’t get these things done without sitting next to our contractors,” he said
Mike O’Mara spoke of the tremendous need for the training center to prepare the next generation of plumbers and pipefitters. “We’ve got roughly 4,500 members, with 3,200 in the field every day,” he said. “Ten years from now, 1,000 of them are going to be retired. What do you do? How are you going to replace them? We do that with facilities like this one and by joining hands with our contractors, because it’s not only about taking care of your family, it’s about taking care of the consumer out there, and the ones that pay us well.
“We’ve got 500 apprentices right now,” he said. “This place has room for growth. And that was part of John’s vision. How do we take care of not only today but tomorrow, the future of our business? None of this would be possible without contractors, without owners willing to use our manpower.”
A group of first-year apprentices also attended the dedication and assisted in sawing through a large piece of PVC pipe, which Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 cut, to mark the official opening of the training center.
Marcelous (Marty) Peshlakai, a first-year apprentice and member of the Navajo Nation, talked about how important it was to him to receive training with Local 562.
“It’s such a blessing to be here. I’d like to thank the staff, the faculty, and the board for making this possible. It shows a lot of professionalism. It shows a lot of respect and integrity.
“I’m a first-year plumber apprentice. There’s so much work out there. I’m extremely proud to be a part of this organization and brotherhood and sisterhood, too. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”