Millett bill would create training licensure for graduates of tech school plumbing programs

Posted: January 31, 2017 | Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, Senator Millett

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, would allow students who study plumbing at a Career and Technical Education school to receive a journeyman-in-training license upon graduation, opening the door to an in-demand profession with higher-than-average wages.

Sen. Millett introduced the bill — LD 37 “An Act To Provide a Career and Technical Education Training Option for Plumbers” — during a public hearing Tuesday before the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

“Last fall, I learned that while many other programs provide certifications to students finishing a career or technical program, plumbing was not included,” said Sen. Millett. “There is a strong demand for these professionals from Maine’s revitalized housing construction and the supply is not keeping pace. With this bill, we can help our CTE graduates attain gainful employment and address a clear need for their skills.”

The bill earned the support of the Maine Education Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine, as well as career plumbers and instructors at Maine’s career and technical schools.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment opportunities for plumbers will grow faster than the average. However, industry groups report there are not enough people entering the field to meet the demand.

The journeyman-in-training license would be issued by the Plumbers’ Examining Board and would allow a CTE graduate to begin working immediately upon graduation under the supervision of a licensed plumber. Hours worked as a journeyman-in-training would count toward the required number of hours necessary to become a journeyman or master plumber in their own right, and would give graduates the option to learn and earn those hours “in the field” as opposed to earning them at additional cost through further schooling.

Career and Technical Schools offer similar third-party certificates for those studying welding, carpentry, culinary arts, masonry and other skills, but plumbing is left off the list.

Wayne Jackson, a plumbing instructor at United Technologies Institute in Bangor, said it’s not always easy to convince young students to study plumbing, but that the promise of a journeyman-in-training license would help.

“Anything we can do to make it more attractive for young students to be plumbers, we need to do it, it’s hard to put a pretty picture on plumbing when you’re selling it to students,” said Wayne Jackson, a plumbing instructor at United Technologies Institute in Bangor.

“Steady work in a high-demand field with living wages should make plumbing an attractive option for young people looking to start a career,” said Sen. Millett. “This bill will make it more attractive to enter the profession, and put plumbing students on a level playing field with those studying other fields.”

LD 37 faces further action in the LCRED Committee, and initial votes in the House and Senate.