Plumb the depths of a new career at Lanier Tech

If you’re looking for a career with good employment prospects, you might consider plumbing. It takes only a year to earn the residential/commercial plumbing technician certificate at Lanier Technical College, which equips students for entry-level jobs with plumbing or general contractors and plumbing supply companies. Students can also pursue a job as a plumbing inspector and work for a municipality.

Plumbers do more than fix leaky faucets. Depending on their certifications and specialty training, plumbers install, maintain and repair various pipe systems. They can work in manufacturing plants, warehouses, apartment buildings, schools and colleges.

Because new construction has been among the hardest-hit industries in the recession, some plumbers have changed their focus.

“Many plumbing contractors have switched gears to do more service and maintenance work than new construction,” said Vlad Pawlowski, instructor for the construction management and plumbing technology programs at Lanier Tech. “Commercial opportunities are stronger than residential right now.”

Employment for plumbers is expected to grow by about 16 percent through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One reason is that many plumbers are reaching retirement age.

“We need good young people to replace them,” said Pawlowski, who worked with plumbers and pipe fitters in the nuclear energy industry before teaching.

Lanier Tech, which accepts up to eight students into the program each semester, keeps classes small so students get individual attention. No experience is required to apply.

“Our students get a substantial background in plumbing theory before they begin to apply what they know in the lab,” Pawlowski said.

Students can take several paths after earning certificates. Some work with established plumbers before taking the licensure exam. Others enter a pipe-fitting union apprenticeship program to become journeymen and master plumbers. Entrepreneurial types can strive to own their own business.

“This program puts them on the path to licensure. They get credit for one year of working for having completed the course,” he said.

Plumbing students take courses in reading and interpreting blueprint drawings before learning about pipes, valves, fittings and various drainage and water systems. They also learn how to install plumbing fixtures and appliances.

“We’re confident that they’ll leave here with the skills to enter the field as plumber’s assistants,” Pawlowski said.

Communication skills are also emphasized.

Average starting salaries for plumbers range from $15 to $18 per hour; journeymen can make $25 to $27 an hour.

Dave Parrish, director of marketing and public relations at Lanier Tech, said that one of Pawlowski’s students had placed first in the state SkillsUSA competition in each of the last two years.

“That speaks very well for our program and students,” Parrish said.

Tuition, textbooks and fees for the program run about $2,600, and many students are eligible for the HOPE grant, which covers most of the tuition.

Lanier Tech’s plumbing program is at the Dawsonville campus. For information, call 706-216-5461 or go to www.laniertech.edu.

Atlanta Technical College also offers a plumbing program. To learn more, call 404-225-4521 or go to www.atlantatech.org.

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