Apprentice training in Plumbers Local Union No. 1 is not just a
"job". It is a structured learning system that leads to a career. The
education and experience received by an apprentice plumber is lifelong
training for a career in the Plumbing Industry. This has been our
tradition and it has continued to thrive, grow, and expand over time. In
ancient times apprenticeship was known in relation to indentured
servitude and the gradual exchange of knowledge from Master to
Apprentice. This relationship and informal training continued into the
modern era in the skilled trades. Formal structured apprenticeship
training as we know it in the United States today was initiated by the
plumbing trade with the approval of the first nationally recognized
From the mid-1800’s plumbers had struggled to formalize rules
regarding the training of new apprentices. Local journeymen’s
associations, master plumber’s societies, and early unions established a
variety of programs, but there was great variation in methods and
practices. In 1936, the United Association of Journeyman Plumbers and
Steamfitters of the United States and Canada (as it was then known), and
the National Association of Master Plumbers, formulated and jointly
adopted a plan for a joint national plumbing apprenticeship program.
The national plumbing apprenticeship program was approved by the
National Association of Master Plumbers at their annual convention on
June 25, 1936, and approved by the United Association of Journeyman
Plumbers and Steamfitters of the United States and Canada on September
11, 1936. The United States Department of Labor set up the “Federal
Committee on Apprenticeship Training” to act as a coordinating agency
for the plan. This Committee was given legal authority in the following
year as the “Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training” by the National
Apprenticeship Act of 1937, commonly known as the “Fitzgerald Act”. All
subsequent national and state approved apprenticeship programs are based
on this model.
In 1936 the joint national plumbing apprenticeship program was explained as follows:
A standard 5 year apprenticeship, which has been recognized by the plumbing trade since 1883 as the desired period.
Requirement of an “indenture” or agreement, signed by the apprentice and the sponsor parties.
Requirement of specific related school instruction of not less than 720 hours.
Provision of material for apprentice classes through boards of education.
Control of plumbing apprenticeship by committees on which master plumbers and journeyman plumbers are equally represented.
Recognition of the fundamental principle that plumbing work
should be done only by properly qualified journeymen plumbers, assisted
by indentured apprentices, employed by and under the supervision of
Establishment of a permanent uniform national plan of plumber apprentice training, remaining under the control of the trade.
The Plumbers Local 1 apprenticeship program follows these same
principles today. We have updated and added hours to our courses of
study over the years, but we have not changed what works. Our
apprenticeship program, while modern in application, is firmly rooted in
the traditions of our past. Our success speaks for itself. Our
graduates are fully qualified journeyman plumbers, armed with numerous
technical skills, and the documented certifications to prove it. We also
have initiated a program which will provide our apprentices with the
additional credential of an Associate in Science degree from the State
University of New York upon completion of their apprenticeship.
Building Trades Apprentices in the Plumbers Local Union No. 1 apprenticeship program learn their craft through a five-year regimen of on the job training and attendance at regularly scheduled technical classes, designed to supplement their field training. Apprentices in Plumbers Local No. 1 are also privileged to be able to attend most classes during the daytime. The curriculum of studies employed by the Plumbers Local Union No. 1 apprenticeship program is approved by the New York State Department of Education, and primarily follows the curriculum established at the national level by the U.A. Training Department. The courses of study undertaken by apprentices in our program are primarily in the disciplines of mathematics and science. Subjects such as trade mathematics, technical blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, computer science, water supply, drainage, code interpretation, rigging, soldering, brazing and welding all require the comprehension of college level scientific and mathematical concepts, which are presented in a trade relevant form. The American Council on Education (ACE), a major coordinating body for the nation's higher education institutions, provides leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues. (ACE) evaluates and accredits colleges and universities to insure that they meet minimum standards for college level learning and for the credit values they award to students for that learning. The U.A. Training Department took the extraordinary step of seeking an (ACE) evaluation of college level learning and a specific assignment of college credits for each of the courses in the U.A. apprenticeship curriculum. That evaluation confirmed that our apprentices were learning college level materials and performing in a manner which was equal to the performance of college level students. Local 1 apprentices are, in fact, completing all of the science and math requirements for an “Associate of Science” degree at a university or college. This may not come as a surprise to those who know what is taught in our program, but it is generally unknown by the public at large.
for the Empire State College website.