Apprenticeship opportunities are still available locally, and union officials are hoping for some growth in coming years.
"We currently have 38 apprentices in training," said Pat Lang, training coordinator for Marietta Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 168. "Generally they go to classes two nights a week and work on a job site during the days."
Apprentices must have a minimum of 246 hours of class time and 1,700 hours of on the job training annually to qualify as journeymen on completion of the five-year program.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Fifth-year pipefitter apprentice Adam Ruble checks out a shielded metal arc weld at the local Plumbers and Pipefitters training facility off Gilman Avenue in Marietta.
Lang draws apprentices from a district that includes Washington, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan and Noble counties, contacting potential candidates through an outreach program and regional job fairs.
"This is the lowest number of apprentices we've had in the last eight years," he said. "There are still opportunities in the trade, although not as many as in the past."
To enter the program, candidates first take an aptitude test, then go before a joint apprenticeship committee consisting of three contractors and three labor representatives. The committee rates the candidates and places them on a list ranked according to their scores.
Find out more
For information about local trades and apprentice training programs:
Parkersburg-Marietta Building and Construction Trades-(304) 424-6443 or online pmbtc.us
U.S. Department of Labor Ohio apprenticeship programs-oa.doleta.gov
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services-jfs.ohio.gov/apprenticeship
Q&A:?Hands on experience
Bill Hutchinson, business manager for the Parkersburg-Marietta Building and Construction Trades Council, says apprentices with local union trades get the best of both worlds by training on the job as well as in the classroom.
Q: Are apprenticeships still available in the Parkersburg-Marietta area?
A: Yes. But the numbers grow or shrink depending on the job opportunities. We try to keep apprentices working as jobs become available. In a perfect world we would be taking apprentices in all the time. They would work during the day and take classes at night or on weekends.
Things slowed down due to the economy in 2008 and 2009, so we didn't take that many applications. But it seems now there's more work, and we're hoping with the different shale oil and gas processing facilities coming online, union services will be needed in a lot of that work. Many facilities will require continued maintenance, too, so there should be some spin off work.
Equipment operators and laborers in gas pipeline work are probably the busiest right now.
Q: Are many people applying for apprenticeships?
A: We usually get a lot of applications if people know there are going to be job opportunities coming. The more work, the more applications we can receive.
You try to read the future-take stock of what workers may be needed in the future. We may take on 10 or 20 apprentices, depending on the need. But sometimes it's difficult to see what's coming.
Q: Can anyone become an apprentice?
A: You have to go through some kind of apprenticeship program. The trades want skilled workers who know the basics and more. When an apprentice leaves the program he should have a great working knowledge of his craft.
Apprenticeship training is provided at no cost to the apprentice. The funding comes through our member unions working in the field.
Q: Will there be more apprentice opportunities in the future?
A: I can foresee apprenticeships growing in coming years. As the economy grows we can add on more people. But it doesn't do any good to train apprentices if they don't have jobs.
Sam Shawver conducted this interview.
"They're chosen from that list as positions become available," Lang said.
The apprentices receive hands-on training working jobs in the local petrochemical, steel and power generation industries and other businesses.
"It's all construction or maintenance-related work involving piping, boilers, HVAC and other skills," Lang said.
The local plumbers and pipefitters training program has existed since 1956, and Lang said instructors are experts from the industry with plenty of field experience to pass on.
"We're optimistic that opportunities are going to grow," he said. "There's a lot of talk about the oil and gas business increasing in this area, so we anticipate we'll get a lot of that work when it comes."
Doug Soma is apprenticeship coordinator for the Columbus-based Ohio Carpenters' Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program that covers the south central district, including Marietta and Washington County.
"We train carpenters, millwrights and floor layers through four training centers throughout the state," he said. "And we have about 1,200 apprentices at our training center alone."
Soma said applications are taken at the Columbus facility Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.
"They come here and apply, then we try to give them contractors and job sites available in their area," he said. "Local contractors may also send someone to us. But there have to be jobs available or we can't take them in. We don't just sign them up and let them sit."
Every three months during the four-year apprentice program, trainees are required to attend a one-week class at the center in Columbus.
"Apprenticeships are picking up. In 2008, 2009, things were really slow for us, but now we're bringing in three to four new apprentices every week," Soma said. "Normally in a year we would take in around 400 at the training center."
He said a lot of work is available in Columbus, but if people from Washington County join the program the training center tries to keep them working within a three or four county area.
"We probably have 10 to 12 apprentices in that area now," Soma said.
A board member with the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council, Soma said the building trades represent about one-third of the more than 1,000 apprenticeship programs offered throughout the state. He said the other two-thirds of apprenticeships are found in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
"There are about 15,000 apprentices now registered in the state of Ohio," he said. "It's coming back after a couple of years when the economy slowed. And right now almost everyone is working due to the current construction season."
Soma noted a starting apprentice can make around $15 per hour, plus benefits.