Plumbing for answers on trade-skills gap

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

Keith Vadas has seen both sides of the trade versus office job-skill debate that often surrounds arguments on available jobs and work force development these days. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.



WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Plumbing for answers on trade-skills gap

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
PIPE DREAM: Leaders of the plumbing industry are worried about a potential shortage of workers. Pictured above is Jim Hoxeng, a service technician with Roto Rooter.

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 10/8/12

Keith Vadas has seen both sides of the trade versus office job-skill debate that often surrounds arguments on available jobs and work force development these days.

For 18 years, he’s worked on the management side of Roto Rooter, a national plumbing and drain-cleaning company.

But before that, he was out spraying homes for protection against insects as a field technician with Terminex. When he set out to begin a career, a trade-service job was a way to earn a solid living and feel good about a day’s work.

Now he watches young people, like his 23-year-old twin children, steer far more often toward technical, computer and more corporate-centered careers.

“[The industry] sure has changed. When you look at the [plumbing-and-service] industry, you’re just not seeing the numbers we used to have,” said Vadas, the New England region vice president for Roto Rooter. “Not many people wake up and say ‘I want to be the Roto Rooter guy.’ ”

And that’s a problem, Vadas and others inside the plumbing industry say, that could lead to a shortage of workers and, in some cases, already has.

Jose DaSilva, the field training manager for Roto Rooter in Providence, expects to add about three positions per year for the next four years. But he estimates that the state probably needs about 600 more plumbers today, though he could not say how many there are today.

In 2010, there were 2,048 licensed plumbers in the state.

“We’re going to be needing more experienced [people] in the future as people retire,” said Corinne Riley, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors.

The R.I. Department of Labor and Training identified plumbers, along with pipefitters and steamfitters, as one of its ‘Hot Jobs’ that, over the 2008 to 2018 10-year period, were projected to grow at rates above the 7.8 percent state average, pay wages above the private-sector state average of just over $41,000 annually, and generate at least 50 job openings each year.

The plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters were expected to grow 10.9 percent over that decade, provide 64 annual job openings, and pay an average $54,000 salary.

Roto Rooter reports that the average salary of a United States plumber is $43,000 and that master plumbers can earn more than $100,000.

“The experience and financial reward, I think, is a lot more than you would [get] waiting to go through a [series] of promotions [at a corporate job],” said Anthony Cattani, the Providence sales manager for Roto Rooter.

There are several apprenticeship programs available in Rhode Island but recent enrollment has been dismal.

The Community College of Rhode Island offers four levels of apprenticeship-related plumbing instruction approved by the R.I. State Apprenticeship Council through the school’s Center for Workforce and Community Education.

This year, the college is running only year four of the program, with 12 students. Years one through three were canceled because of low enrollment.

DaSilva agrees that the problem needs to be addressed with education starting at the high school level. His office, he said, has approached several schools about collaborating on outreach programs but they faced budgetary hurdles.

“When I started high school, there were a lot of classes you could take for trades,” DaSilva said. “Now when [kids] learn about trades it’s too late because they have their mind set on something else.” •

Calendar
PBN Hosted
Events

Join PBN and two panels of successful female executives, business owners and entrepreneurs as we delve into what women should do to advance their careers, and become leaders in the corporate world and their own enterprises.
  • Book of Lists Party
    Save the date - January 15, 2015 for PBN's Book of Lists Party at the Providence ...
  • Best Places to Work
    Enrollment is now open for the 7th annual Best Places to Work program. Winners w ...
Advertisement
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  •  
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  •  
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
  •  
    National
    Local
    Latest News
    Advertisement