STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Almost 100 new plumbers will be needed in the Highland Lakes in the next five years, according to a statistic from state labor boards. This is due to new subdivisions, businesses, and other growth.
“That’s considerable for the size of our community,” said Gail Davalos of Workforce Network Inc., which is dedicated to supporting workforce training in the Highland Lakes.
Because of the shortage, the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area came up with $21,000 in grant money that, officials hope, will help address the need through a plumbers training program.
Central Texas College will offer the coursework for up to 12 adults who want to work in the plumbing trade or as a plumbing apprentice.
Marble Falls EDC Director Christian Fletcher said the grant, the second from the Texas Workforce Commission’s High Demand Job Training Grant program, is a win-win for residents and the city.
“Construction is a key industry in the Highland Lakes area, but we frequently face trade shortages that lead to delays and higher costs,” he said.
Because plumbers must be licensed, students will have to work for several years as apprentices. To reach journeyman level requires four years of work under a master plumber.
“It takes that long, and there’s a shortage,” Davalos said. “That’s why it’s in high demand. Employers who are master plumbers just need help. They can’t keep up with the demand.”
Two courses will start on Sept. 4 and finish in April. Students must commit to online self-study and hands-on workshops each Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. They will learn from licensed master and journeymen plumbers, who are experts in the trade.
Plumbers who own their own businesses encouraged Davalos and her team to get the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners to approve the curriculum, which it did.
Because the coursework has been approved, students will earn 1,000 apprentice hours, which equals six months in the field. That allows students to combine their 1,000-hour coursework with on-the-job apprentice hours.
The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners require an apprentice work under a master plumber for
two years before sitting for the tradesman license exam and four years before sitting for a journeyman license exam.
Successful completion of the Central Texas College program gives the apprentice a credit of six months toward the above requirements. So the graduate can add six months’ credit to 18 months of work to qualify to take the tradesman exam or six months’ credit to 3½ years of work to sit for journeyman exam.
There’s more to plumbing than fixing a toilet, Davalos said.
Plumbers have a multitude of jobs, including installing nitrous oxide in dentist offices. In fact, just about any type of medical line found in a medial office must be installed by a licensed plumber. Since plumbers deal with public safety, the state requires they get a license, Davalos said.
Students in the Central Texas College program will receive help to pay for books, tuition, and hands-on training. Classes are open to those ages 18 and older who have a high school diploma or a GED, are eligible to work in the United States, and who live or are seeking work in Burnet or Llano counties.
Interested people should call Davalos at (830) 265-8024 for more information or to apply.