Pipe Trades apprentices test skills at regional competition in Twin Cities

It would be an understatement to say the competition among Pipe Trades apprentices – and apprenticeship programs – held in the Twin Cities June 7-8 was intense.

How intense? After a labor reporter chatting with one of the visiting instructors snapped a photo of some plumbing specs, he was confronted by another out-of-town instructor, who demanded in no uncertain terms that the photo be destroyed.

“Or else we’ll give you a math problem,” the instructor warned. “How do you get home with four flat tires and no spare?”

All in good fun, of course. But as the instructors joked, apprentices from 11 states across the Upper Midwest tackled some seriously complex projects that tested apprentices in five disciplines. Plumbing, pipefitting, pipe welding and HVACR apprentices competed at the Pipefitters Local 455 Training Center in St. Paul, while sprinklerfitting apprentices competed at Local 417’s Minneapolis facility.

Apprentices also took multiple written exams as part of the competition.

At stake: the opportunity to represent District 4 at the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry’s international competition in Ann Arbor, Mich., this August. Only first-place finishers from each of the five disciplines advanced.

One local apprentice made the cut: Local 417’s Martin Nelson, a resident of Princeton.

Meanwhile, apprenticeship coordinators from District 4 were so impressed with the facilities, they wasted no time deciding to return the 2018 competition to the Twin Cities.

As for those project specs off limits to the media? They were burned promptly after the judging, preventing any instructors from bringing them home to help their local union’s apprentices prepare for next year’s competition.

Seriously, it’s that intense.

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