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UA Local 112's Apprenticeship Program is Recognized in the Press & Sun-Bulletin - (1/18/2006)

CAREERS IN TRADE Lucrative job field beckons Apprentices benefit from rising demand By My-Ly Nguyen Press & Sun-Bulletin There's no shortage of work for Brad Fish Jr., a 20-year-old apprentice and service technician at Tri County Refrigeration in Owego. He and others in the traditional trade professions are in great demand, with many employers hotly recruiting high school students to fill the growing need for plumbers, bricklayers, drywallers and other traditional tradesmen. Despite the opportunities, the jobs are a tough sell — not only to young people but to parents and school counselors, who don't always see the trades as a desirable option. "They don't talk too much about trades," Fish said about what counselors discussed before he graduated from Maine-Endwell High School in 2004. Instead, joining the military or enrolling in a university or college were promoted, he said. But after one semester of studying criminal justice at Broome Community College, Fish grew tired of academia and wanted out. His parents pushed him to stay in school. "They didn't want me to have a part-time job and minimum wage the rest of my life," Fish said. "Parents always want the best for their kids — education, a good job, good money. Once I stopped (school) they were mad, but they're happy about what I'm doing now." The typical wage for a first-year plumber apprentice is $9.75 an hour, plus pension and other benefits, said Daniel Crocker, training coordinator for the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 112 in Binghamton. After a five-year apprenticeship, Fish can expect to make $24.58 an hour — a little more than $50,000 per year — and benefits if they work in the southern part of New York, Crocker said. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the industry will need to add 100,000 jobs a year each year through 2012, while also filling an additional 90,000 openings annually for positions vacated by retiring baby boomers and those leaving for other reasons. "Do we have an immediate crisis? Probably not. Will we in five years? Absolutely," said Gary Dowty, executive vice president of the Lake County Contractors Association in Chicago. Each spring, Dowty's organization sponsors a career expo for local eighth-graders, who get to build toolboxes, lay brick and use a jackhammer — and each year, the two-day event has gotten more popular. The idea is to plant seeds early — with some organizations hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Bob the Builder and home-improvement shows, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls. Trade organizations hope to supplant the notion that a college degree is the only path to a good career, creating an atmosphere more like that in Europe, where trades are often regarded as attractive professions with steady work and high stature for skilled technicians. "We say, 'apprenticeship is the other four-year degree,' " said Bob Piper, vice president of work force development for the Arlington, Va.-based ABC, which has chapters across the country. And increasingly, some jobs such as construction management do require a college degree — and offer competitive starting salaries for graduates. Rob Dayton, 21, of Binghamton, has seen friends enrolled at Broome Community College, the State University College at Cortland and other academic institutions struggle to determine their career paths. "They're still undecided about what they want to do as a career," Dayton said. Meanwhile, he's in his first year as a plumbing apprentice at J&K Plumbing & Heating Inc. in Binghamton. He had previously worked at the company for four years as a truck driver, delivering supplies and equipment to job sites. "I'll get through my five years of apprenticeship and when I retire, I'm going to have a great pension and annuity," he said. But working in the trades is not for everyone, Crocker noted. "It's a demanding job," he said. "You're outside in the cold in winter. You could be working in a boiler room in the middle of the summer." But there's also tremendous satisfaction and pride tied to completing a job well done, Crocker said. Too few young people are aware of the benefits, he said. "They've cut shop programs in school," Crocker said. "It's not like 20 years ago when I was in school. The only place they get exposure to the trades anymore is if they go to BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). Then they get exposed to the trades because their curriculum is directly related to trade studies." Martha Irvine is a writer for The Associated Press.

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UA Local 112 members have helped build every major building in our jurisdictional territory, from schools, colleges, and universities, to hospitals, manufacturing facilities and power houses to high rise hotels and entertainment facilities.

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