CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – As part of National Apprenticeship Week, 22News looks into a local apprenticeship program and how it benefits western Massachusetts.
“Let’s give it a shot, see what happens, I was ready for a career change,” said Carlos Montanez of Springfield.
For the past five years, Montanez has been an apprentice in the trade of plumbing, pipefitting, welding and HVAC. Apprenticeships are rigorous and competitive, but rewarding programs. Before Montanez can be state-licensed, he’s required to complete 10,000 hours of work for an employer and two nights a week of classroom training for five years.
It’s easy to apply for an apprenticeship: you need to be 18 years old, have a driver’s license and birth certificate. You must also pass a state-issued writing and math comprehension test. Though it’s easy to apply, it is difficult to be accepted.
“When I was the training director, every time we did this we would have 250 to 300 people apply, and we would usually take about 25 and put them on a list, and that list is good for a couple years,” Local 104 Business Manager and Financial Secretary Michael Langone told 22News.
Local 104 is a union in the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. He said apprentices are part of their union, so they don’t pay for training. They get paid by an employer, and get health insurance and pension benefits from the union. He said everyone completes the program with a state license or certification.
Recently, there has been a push among employers and cities to hire local pipe fitters, plumbers, welders and HVAC technicians. They focus on also hiring trained women, minorities and veterans. The training facility in Chicopee is where many of those people are trained: it’s the only facility of its kind west of Palmer in western Massachusetts. People from southern Vermont and the Berkshires also attend training twice a week there.
Montanez hopes at the end of his apprenticeship, he’ll be hired by his employer. “What you give them, it’s what they’re going to take and if you’re willing to give them 100 percent, more than likely you’ll end up with the company for a good time,” Montanez told 22News.
Local 104 won’t be accepting any apprenticeship applications until work picks up next spring.