Consider the Fifth Option

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Most students are given four options to consider when graduating from high school: four-year college, two-year college, a military career or a non-skilled job.

Living in a culture that teaches that success comes in the form of a college degree, we often forget that there are other pathways to a fulfilling career. The phrase “college isn’t for everyone” shouldn’t be said as an apology, but rather as an opportunity. Some people prefer variety in their days, being physically active and outside, and the satisfaction of completing a project. For those people, a college degree may not be necessary to have an exciting job opportunity.

So your niche isn’t in the standard four options? Try exploring the mysterious, often not-talked-about, fifth option: skilled trade apprenticeships. We hear talk in the Upstate about welding as the major skilled trade, but there are many more skills that fall into the category of trades, such as electrical, HVAC repair, carpentry and my personal favorite, plumbing.

With the plumbing workforce slowly dwindling, the industry has begun to face a skilled worker shortage. As one generation retires, the next generation of young adults needs to fill its place. Almost 158,000 plumbers will be eligible for retirement in 2022. In a field that is also growing in demand, this is creating a huge vacuum. Plumbing and pipefitting jobs nationally are expected to grow at nearly double the rate of the rest of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The push for vocational training in schools and community colleges is stronger than ever. However, the perception of trade skills, such as plumbing, has not changed enough to fill the gap left from retirees. South Carolina, just like the rest of the nation, needs to power up its skilled trade workforce in order to meet demand.

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At All Clear Plumbing we are working to do just that. We want to change the conversation and encourage the next generation to discover the opportunity in our growing industry. All Clear Plumbing, an independent and homegrown brand, is one of the founding members of South Carolina’s first chapter of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, a leading voice in the rising tide of plumbing and HVAC contractors who share these concerns about the industry’s future.

The All Clear Plumbing apprenticeship program offers comprehensive, union-quality training. The program is certified by the Department of Labor, ensuring that the resulting skill level is up to a national standard. Throughout the four-year program, participants take online classes through the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, while simultaneously working full-time in the field learning a variety of skills. These skills are then measured at the end of each apprenticeship year to ensure the student is ready to progress to the next level. Upon completion of the program, apprentices are prepared to take the Journeyman’s Test, the first level of plumbing licensure in South Carolina.

Competition for these coveted apprenticeship spots is beginning to grow, as more students discover the not-so-secret fifth option. Once they learn about the competitive wages from day one, the engaged learning opportunities and the exciting day-to-day nature of the business, they are hooked. All Clear Plumbing is one of just a few plumbers in the Upstate to provide such a program, but are vocal advocates for more plumbing companies to join the model. It’s the only way to fill the need of a fast-growing industry and a shrinking workforce.

 

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