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Training the next wave of plumbers as Maryland battles a shortage

Posted at 7:42 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 19:42:38-04

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — On a Tuesday evening, young adults are busy - firing up blow torches and soldering pipes, preparing for a job in plumbing.

"It's a good trade to have because you get into everything else," said Luke Hawley, a plumbing apprentice.

Hawley's dad owns a plumbing company.

He's seen firsthand the financial security the trade can provide.

"I saw it during high school and I feel like I can go through that just like he did and maybe make a good living by doing it," Hawley said.

For Geanbosco Nshimiyimana, who migrated to the U.S. from Rwanda, it's a chance to do similar work that he did before as a welder.

"I will continue doing the same thing cause the most [important] thing is to help society, to do hands-on [work], and solve problems with people," Nshimiyimana said.

Both of these men are entering the field at a time when it's experiencing a worker shortage.

Nearly 50,000 plumbing jobs go unfilled each year, according to a study by John Dunham and Associates sponsored by LIXIL, a plumbing manufacturing company.

The study also says if just 16,000 people were to join the field, it could cut plumbing costs across the U.S. by more than a billion dollars.

Thomas Bunker teaches at Anne Arundel Community College's trade school.

He's also an Anne Arundel County plumbing inspector.

"I just don't think the quality in a lot of plumbing is what it used to be," Bunker said.

Bunker says schools like this create well-rounded plumbers who know the ins and outs of the business.

"Because I get to see it almost daily that it's harder and harder and it's costing consumers more and more money to get a quality plumber out there to do work," said Bunker.

According to Indeed, plumbers in Maryland make $32 an hour.

With a license as a master plumber, someone can get as high as $55 an hour.

It also comes with purpose, knowing you did a job well done.

"I've always enjoyed getting up and doing what I do. Not saying it's for everyone and some days are hard work but there's self-satisfaction in it as well,"

So people, like Tom, are keeping up the fight to train the next wave of plumbers and pipe fitters needed to handle the workload.