National plumber instructor training in Ann Arbor goes global with new Australian affiliation
Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com
The two unions, both members of the World Plumbing Council, will sign the affiliation agreement Wednesday morning. The agreement will transform a 6-year informal relationship into a close collaboration that both sides say will lead to improved training practices, increased job opportunities, and even a “greener” world.
With the merger, an increasing number of Australian instructors will arrive in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti every year to both learn and teach at the UA’s annual weeklong training seminar. Before long, others might follow them.
“We’re here this year and New Zealand is here, too,” PTEU Federal Secretary Earl Setchs said.
“But China, India, and others will follow suit. This is the place to come excellence in training.”
The only problem they might have is finding a place to stay — hotels in the area already are packed when the UA comes to town.
A part of the draw for North American and international visitors alike are the facilities available at WCC.
“This is the best training center in the world,” Setchs said. “And not just barely, but by a long way.”
Setchs added that the reception of hotels, restaurants and residents in the area has been extremely embracing.
William Hite, general president of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinklerfitters, and Service Technicians, said the UA has worked to build the connections in the region that have led to the positive reception as well as new community programs that coincide with the seminar.
Hite said the event on WCC’s campus is just the tip of the iceberg, both for training and for the affiliation between the unions.
“We spend $250 million a year as a union on training and certification,” he said.
The approximately 2,200 visitors to the area are instructors themselves, and Hite said they all take the knowledge they learn and use it to teach both apprentices and journeymen working on continuing their education.
When the Australians join the experience as full partners, they will be able to share expertise in water conservation and learn from American instructors who have more experience with in heavy industry, a growing sector in Australia.
The partnership will also allow for increased employment mobility for union workers between countries. Americans and Canadians are members of the same union, so they can already use their certifications to find work in either country. The new affiliation will open a growing market in Australia to the North American workforce.
“There’s $190 billion worth of work in the resource sector to be done in Australia,” Setchs said. “That’s billion with a ‘B.’”
The Australian government has been involved in the partnership, and Hite said that the process for American union members to work in Australia will be streamlined.
On the flip side, Australian expertise in environmentally friendly techniques will be used to help the American and Canadian union improve performance in what they assume will continue to be a growth sector at home.
“Australia leads the world in green and water conservation practices,” Hite said.
“We hope to learn from them and we will have Australian instructors teaching here next year.”