[Editor’s Note: To watch The NEWS’video coverage of this event, follow the bit.ly links to watch segments of the affiliation agreement signing ceremony or go to www.youtube.com/achrnews to see them all.]

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — During Industry Day at the Great Lakes Regional Training Center at Washtenaw Community College, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) of North America and the Plumbing Trades Employees Union (PTEU) of Australia, signed an affiliation agreement (http://bit.ly/SizgFg) for joint skills training and employment initiatives in the United States, Canada, and Australia. According to the UA, this is a first between two unions and its major initiatives are to help streamline the building industry, reduce the shortage of skilled workers, and bolster the efforts to address global climate change.

Representing each of the unions was William P. Hite, UA general president (http://bit.ly/TxhNMp) and Earl Setches, PTEU state secretary (http://bit.ly/VfwDcs). Both sides bring specific expertise to the agreement table and each leader offered that expertise to help the other.

“The UA will initially share its expertise in heavy industry as Australia embarks on expansion of oil and gas refining, and power generation projects,” said Hite. “Our experience in training workers for certification in welding, instrumentation installation, and calibration is highly valued by our industry.”

As for the PTEU, its experience with water shortages and drought will bring a different set of skills.

“Australian expertise in water conservation will serve North America as it seeks to address its aging water and sewer infrastructure, and retrofit its existing building stock,” explained Setches. “We have vast knowledge of irrigation systems, rain water harvesting, and water treatment and recycling.”

The event was marked not only by a ceremonial signing, but also by a large group of politicians and industry leaders lending their support to the new agreement. Speakers in attendance included Nathanael Tamarin, special assistant to the president of the United States (http://bit.ly/Tp0YPd); Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. (http://bit.ly/SsxDW9); Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. (http://bit.ly/RxEg9V); William “Mac” Lynch, president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) (http://bit.ly/RuN8P5); and many more from both sides of the ocean. Each complimented the strengths of the two unions and highlighted the benefits that are expected to rise from the agreement.

Lynch pointed out the importance of job creation in this agreement and what it means for the unions.

“MCAA is proud to be here today in recognition of our strong lasting partnership with the UA. Together we all share the same goal and that is to create jobs — good union jobs for the strong men and women in this industry,” he noted. “As contractors, we know that our ability to exceed the expectations of our clients and the owners helps us win work and create jobs. By sharing knowledge and working together, our industry in each country will be even stronger and better able to meet the needs of the future.”

Apprentice Competition

Many other events went on at the Great Lakes Regional Training Center the day of the agreement signing as well as the days surrounding it. The 2012 Instructor Training Program (ITP) took place where participants attended classes and some received certifications. There were also some trades classes available.

Also occurring during the ITP was the 25th International Apprenticeship Competition. After competing and winning local and regional competitions, 30 apprentices from the United States and Canada competed on this national stage in five different disciplines: HVAC service technician, plumbing, pipe fitting, sprinkler fitting, and welding.

The winner of this year’s HVAC service technician award was Neil Mani from UA Local #601 in Milwaukee. He competed against five other HVAC apprentices for the honor of being named the top apprentice. The rest of the winners were Ben Wagner, plumber, UA Local #527 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Steve Abbott, pipe fitter, UA Local #773, South Glens Falls, N.Y.; Keith Bauman, welder, UA Local #392, Cincinnati; and Jared Johnson, sprinkler fitter, UA Local #696, Newark, N.J.

Along with the trade-specific projects that were completed by all the participants in the five disciplines, each of them were also tested on their ability to complete certain copper joining techniques, including soldering, brazing, T-Drill™, press-connect, push-connect, and roll groove.

The Copper Development Association (CDA) donated all of the copper materials and some of the tools necessary to complete the copper skills portion of the competition. It also donated its members’ time and expertise to design and judge the copper competition.

“Every year we meet here in Ann Arbor to promote the importance of these trades and reward the hardest-working apprentices in North America,” said Dale Powell, CDA regional manager, and copper skills judge. “Even the toughest of economic times can’t stop these talented professionals from wanting to hone their craft and put their skills to the test.”

Powell not only donated his time to the copper skills portion of the apprentice competition, but he also taught two sessions during the ITP. He noted in a press release that the “ITP is extremely important to the continued development and expansion of the industry.”

The week of competition and training concluded with an ITP graduation ceremony and announcement of the apprentice competition winners.

Publication date: 11/19/2012