December 6, 2015
By Valerie Sweeten, JOBS CORRESPONDENT
Pipefitters are a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to completing major projects throughout Houston projects ranging from construction to oil and gas.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected employment of pipefitters is expected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The major influence behind this demand include the construction of buildings and the need for new septic systems.
Carla Thompson, workforce development coordinator with Turner Industries, said the demand will continue to grow. She is the master trainer for National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) courses and supports job sites for training. Thompson also works with journeymen to help them gain certifications to meet the needs of clients.
"The demand is growing beyond the people we have currently for trained craftsmen that are qualified to work," she said. "We know we're going to have a deficit."
Debbie Stephens, Human Resources Generalist at TD Industries Inc., said it recently hired pipefitters for major construction projects such as hospitals and office buildings from Sugar Land to Beaumont to The Woodlands.
"We're doing a lot of training and teaching with mentors. We're trying to get a younger crowd," she said.
Lone Star College's pipefitting program is busy training students to excel in this career. Instruction prepares students in installing, assembling, fabricating, maintaining, repairing and troubleshooting mechanical piping systems. The Pipefitting Certificate, offered at LSC-North Harris, can be completed in six months. Students are introduced to welding fundamentals and basic pipefitting skills before moving onto more advanced instruction on installation and pipe fabrication. Students earn 30 total credit hours to obtain the certificate.
Alberto Urbina, director of applied technology at LSC-North Harris, said not only is the demand at an all-time high, but graduates will find multiple local industries hiring for pipefitting positions. The average salary is more than $46,000.
Training is also available at Pipefitters Local Union 211. Students in their five-year apprenticeship training program are put to work immediately as they begin their training and education.
At the end of this apprenticeship, students are qualified journeymen according to Brian Edwards, assistant business manager at the Local Union 211. Its territory to employ students ranges from Harlingen to Louisiana to College Station. Locally, their pipefitters are working throughout hospitals, chemical plants, schools and hospitals.
To date, Edwards said they have put in over 3 million man hours compared to 2.2 million in 2014.
Originally published by the Houston Chronicle, December 2015