Sprinkler fitter apprenticeships pave the way to good paying careers that save lives

In the last year, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) affiliates combined to invest roughly $2 billion in training and education. The United Association (UA) invests about $300 million every year to train their apprentices and journeymen.

Tim Coleman, UA Local 669 JATC Recruitment and Outreach Specialist, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss outreach efforts of the JATC, particularly when it comes to sprinkler fitter apprenticeship programs.

Registered Apprenticeship Programs — America’s best kept secret

The UA Local 669 JATC provides sprinkler fitting apprenticeship training across their 48 state jurisdiction, excluding Hawaii and Florida.

Their main focus is to educate the next generation of sprinkler fitters and dates back to the Apprenticeship Act of 1937, which established the curriculum based on federal guidelines.

As a Recruitment and Outreach Specialist, Coleman said he actively recruits at high schools, military installations and among the formerly incarcerated. He referred to registered apprenticeship programs as America’s best kept secret. For close to 100 years, the JATC program has been the number one pathway to the middle class.

While the pandemic forced the JATC to change the way it trains apprentices, it did not stop training. Instead, training continues to accelerate because more sprinkler fitters are needed throughout the nation, he added.

Coleman said this training makes UA members the nation’s fire protection specialists.

Properly installed sprinkler systems save lives

The job of a sprinkler fitter is to protect lives, property and assets through the installation, inspection and repair of fire suppression systems.

The need for the program became obvious after the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, in which 147 garment workers became trapped in a building that caught fire without a sprinkler system, Coleman said.

The tragedy in Manhattan brought widespread attention to the dangerous conditions of factories, and led to the development of a series of laws and regulations that better protected the safety of workers, among which mandated the installation of fire suppression systems.

Today, fire suppression systems include water sprinklers as well as the dispensing of nitrogen and foam, he added.


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