June 18, 2012
Canadian piping trades hosts national apprenticeship competition in Toronto
A recent competition in Toronto for apprentices in plumbing, steamfitting, welding, sprinkler fitting and refrigeration and air conditioning helps ensure that United Association (UA) members provide valuable work for their contractors, a union official suggests.
“It acts as a check on our training, just to make sure that they’re capable of meeting the needs of our contractors,” said Vince Kacaba, director of training for Local 46 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. “It makes the client that we work for happier, because they’re getting high-quality product for the money that they’re spending.”
UA Local 46 hosted the National United Association Apprenticeship Competition the first week of June at its training centre in the Golden Mile area of Scarborough. The competition was for the Canada-wide District 6 of the UA. The winners – three in each trade - will compete against entrants from other UA districts in North America in the UA competition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this August. The 15 contestants came from across Canada and were judged the best at previous competitions.
The competition included work stations at UA Local 46’s headquarters and training centre on both sides of Warden Avenue north of Eglinton Avenue. On the east side, at 929 Warden, there were work stations for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) service technicians, steamfitters and sprinkler fitters, plus an area outside with a crane, where competitors were required to have a large piece of equipment hoisted into place. It also included displays from sponsors.
This year’s winner in the steamfitting trade was Reid Percy, a fifth-year apprentice from Whitby, east of Toronto.
In an interview at his workstation, Percy said he was building a UA logo out of pipe and fabricating the fittings himself.
“It’s quite a complicated project,” Percy said. “It’s time consuming.”
The UA Local 46 headquarters, at 936 Warden Avenue on the west side, includes welding stations, plus an area designed to simulate a house, where competitors worked on washrooms. It also includes solar panels and a geothermal system, which has the dual purpose of climate control and training for plumbers. Included in the plumbing training area are sinks and toilets with transparent pipes so apprentices can ensure the wastewater flows properly. The building also includes administrative offices and a recreation area for retired union members.
Four years ago, the UA spent $5 million to buy the 20,000-square-foot training facility at 929 Warden Avenue, Kacaba said.
“We develop courses for members of the United Association and other associate member groups – hoisting, rigging, medical gas, foreman courses, supervision and shop steward training,” Kacaba said. He added the training is also available to non-union members and includes ancillary skills, such as operating boom trucks and forklifts.
The competition will probably cost the UA $100,000 to $115,000, he said, some of which was covered by sponsors.
“We’re looking at becoming a stronger partner with Skills Canada competitions and try to promote the trades,” he said, adding the UA aims to promote the trades it represents to parents and high school counselors. “You can easily make, in Toronto, $100,000 just working a regular work year,” Kacaba said. “If you want to go work overtime in Alberta, you could probably double that. You’d have to be a real good lawyer, by the time you cover all your costs, to make the same money.”
In addition to Percy, the winners of this year’s national competition were: Ben Wagner in plumbing; Dennis Cowan in HVACR; Brandon Edgar in sprinkler fitting; and Mike Purdy in welding.
The UA’s competition partners included Lincoln Electric and Milwaukee Tools.
Annapolis, Maryland-based UA has more than 300,000 members in more than 300 locals in the U.S. and Canada.
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