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News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry • August 2014

“Local 12 was a dream come true.”

- Leopold Njieptchi, apprentice and Building Pathways graduate See cover story

Building Pathways for Apprentice Candidates and a Pipeline for the Construction Trades IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED THE CRANES multiplying throughout the region, the construction industry has recovered nicely from its Great Recession slump. In order for contractors, such as the members of the PHCC of Greater Boston, to keep construction sites humming with activity, building trades, including Plumbers Local 12, need to meet the labor demand. With an aging construction workforce, however, the trades need a steady flow of young apprentices to replace retired workers. While the economy has generally improved, and unemployment rates have come down, especially in the Boston area, it can still be difficult for low-income residents to find good jobs. If only there was a way to connect people eager to work and develop career skills with the building trades' apprentice training programs, it would fill two critical needs. There is. It’s called Building Pathways. The pre-apprenticeship program was developed and launched under the guidance of Marty Walsh when he was head of the Boston Building Trades and remains one of his proudest accomplishments. (Getting elected as mayor of Boston surely ranks up there for Walsh as well.) It includes an extensive outreach and recruitment component that targets low-income candidates. Particular attention is focused on minorities and women, two groups that are generally underrepresented in the industry. One of the recent classes was entirely comprised of women.

Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Greater Boston 978-777-8764

United Association Plumbers and Gasfitters Boston Local 12 617-288-6200

In order to participate in the program, applicants must complete a rigorous testing and assessment process. Funded by public and private grants, the program is offered free of charge to participants. Once accepted, participants attend a seven-week training program. “The goal is not to teach specific trade skills,” says Tyrone Kindell, Jr., the project coordinator for Building Pathways and a Local 12 plumber. “The goal is to expose them to trade options and to provide life and employment skills so that they will be ready to succeed in the industry.” Continued on page 4

LEOPOLD NJIEPTCHI made a long journey to become a Local 12 apprentice.

Local 12 Apprentice is Building Pathways t is a good thing that Leopold Njieptchi pays attention to flyers. A native of Cameroon in Africa, he has had a remarkable journey that has brought him to Local 12’s apprentice program. The path that led him to the United States, to the Building Pathways program, and eventually to the Local, began by taking notice of, and acting on the information he read on posted handbills.


Njieptchi happened to walk past the US embassy in Yaoundé in 2004 and noticed a poster promoting a program to help people of Cameroon emigrate to the U.S. With high unemployment in his native country, he had long wanted to make the move to pursue opportunities and make a better life for his family, but lacked the resources. The federal program was set up as a lottery, and Njieptchi filled out an application to enter his name. “We were praying every day that things would work out,” he says. “I didn’t think I was going to win.” Njieptchi was elated when he got the news that he was, in fact, among those chosen in the lottery. It took him a couple of years to settle affairs, make arrangements, and gather enough funds to take his wife with him on his journey to America. Njieptchi Continued on page 2

Local 12 Apprentice Trades in Helmet for Hardhat yan Washington has seen a fair amount of action in far-flung places such as the Sinai Peninsula, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He has served on multinational task forces and quick reaction forces, worked with civilians and local police in highly volatile areas, and trudged through the desert in 120-degree heat — all to protect and defend his country as a soldier in the US Army. Washington is still seeing action today, but instead of carrying a rifle and a flak jacket, he's carrying a welding torch and a wrench.

R 15 recipients received college scholarships totaling $25,000 at the PHCC of Greater Boston annual meeting, including Anna Nielsen, shown with the organization’s president, Ed Strickland.

Apprentice Found Pathway Continued from page 1 arrived in Boston in 2006. Unable to speak English when he first arrived, he found a job cleaning offices, but wanted a job in the construction trades. As a child, he often visited construction sites with his father, who was a mason. Njieptchi later studied HVAC and worked for a time in a hotel engineering department in Cameroon. He worked hard to learn English and plugged away at his cleaning job. “I really wanted to be a professional,” says Njieptchi. “I wanted to get my license in Massachusetts.” Again, fate intervened in the form of a poster. As he was exiting his housing complex in 2011, he saw a flyer about Building Pathways and realized that it could help him achieve his goal.

working for American Plumbing and Heating on a project building a dormitory at Wentworth College and says that things are going very well. While he and his wife were getting settled into their new lives in Boston, Njieptchi’s mother took care of their two daughters in Cameroon. A few months ago, the family was reunited when Njieptchi was able to make arrangements for all three to make the move to Massachusetts with the money he had saved. He says that one of the first things his daughters wanted to do when they arrived in the city was play in the snow. Among the things that Njieptchi may want to teach his children is the value of reading flyers.

Thanks to Helmets to Hardhats, a national program that helps veterans make the transition from military service to a career in the construction trades, Washington is a first-year apprentice at the Local 12 and PHCC of Greater Boston training center. Married with two young children, he sees his apprenticeship as an important step. “The experience has changed my life,” Washington says. “Working to get my plumbing license will help my family, and I'm very grateful.” After his last deployment in Kabul, he wasn’t sure what he would do when he returned to

Accepted into the seven-week training program, Njieptchi and his classmates visited the training centers of building trade locals, including the iron workers, carpenters, and bricklayers, as part of the curriculum. When he visited Plumbers Local 12, however, something clicked. “It was a dream come true,” Njieptchi says. Always proficient in math, and having some experience with HVAC, he says that he thought it would be a good match. Njieptchi applied and was accepted to Local 12 after the Building Pathways program ended and is now in his second year as an apprentice. He is

civilian life. He had a friend in Local 12 who encouraged him to consider plumbing. Then Washington discovered the resources available through Helmets to Hardhats. He says the program was great in helping him learn more about the trades and building his resume. With HTH’s assistance, Washington was able to translate his military background into applicable skills for the construction industry. According to the veteran, there are a lot of parallels between the Army and the building trades. Because of his training, he is adept at following orders, focusing on the job at hand, and executing the mission. He understands rank and structure, knows what it’s like to have a company relying on him, and appreciates the importance of working together — all things that are as essential for construction crews as they are for military battalions. But there are many things that are quite different about being a plumber as compared to serving in the Army. “For one thing, I actually get to go home every day,” Washington says. He is also acquiring very specific skills to prepare him for work in the field. He says that he is looking forward to learning welding, medical gas piping, and new technology. The Boston-area settings are far less exotic as well as much safer than the places at which he was stationed while in the Army. Among the jobs on which he has worked is the NorthPoint development in East Cambridge and the Broad Institute lab in Kendall Square. “I’m proud to have served my country, and I’m still serving in the Massachusetts National Guard,” Washington says. “I’m also proud to be a plumber. It’s honest, important work.”

RYAN WASHINGTON, Local 12 apprentice (R), with Rick Carter, the director of the PHCC of Greater Boston and Local 12 Training Center.


Martin Walsh’s Sensible Kind of Unionism by Hugh Kelleher

Earlier this year, The Boston Globe published an article that Hugh Kelleher, the executive director of the Plumbing Hearting Cooling Contractors of Greater Boston, wrote on its Opinion/Editorial pages. It has generated a lot of response. The text of the article follows SINCE THE moment Marty Walsh declared for mayor, there has been much discussion about what his long history with construction unions might mean for Boston. He was the head of the Boston Building Trades, representing laborers, electricians, plumbers, and other unions — a resume that raised concerns in some quarters about how he might approach contracts with city employees. Most commentators took too little account of which union world Walsh comes from. There is a tendency to conflate construction unions with other types of private-sector unions, and with public unions. But each of these three types functions differently, and Walsh’s history with construction unions actually bodes well for taxpayers. As a representative of employers, I sat in joint union-management meetings with Walsh. Although he and I represented different sides in collective bargaining, I supported his candidacy for mayor. In meetings he was able to find consensus. He in no way fits the stereotype of a construction union leader as a table-banger or bully. Beyond that, Walsh comes from a world where people are employed only when there is a job that needs doing. Construction unions in Boston and elsewhere are cognizant of the bottom line in these key ways: • Our layoff process rarely involves any subsequent arbitration. In over 25 years

running my own company and negotiating with the Boston plumbers union, we’ve had exactly one such arbitration. Workers understand that their jobs depend upon performance and the availability of work. • Unlike public unions representing teachers, police, and firefighters — and unlike unions in other private-sector industries — construction unions provide no job guarantees. There is no tenure or seniority. As a union employer, I hire the best people and fire those who don’t perform. Period. • How much notice must the employer give a union construction worker before layoff? Fifteen minutes. This happened to me 30 years ago, when I was as a young plumber. We were finishing work in a downtown Boston apartment building. At 3 p.m. the boss called: “Hugh, I’m sorry, but we don’t have any work tomorrow.” Two months later, when there was another job, he hired me back. The construction industry’s emphasis on reliability and performance offers lessons for city government. While the benchmarks for construction work may be more easily measured than those in, say, education (“How many feet of pipe did you put in today?” vs. “How much did your students learn today?”), the construction model of linking employability to performance could prove useful as Walsh deals with public-sector unions. Consider also the way construction unions deal with wages and benefits. When construction unions reach a wage agreement, it is understood that the money needed to keep pension and health funds solvent is subtracted directly from the total wage package. Negotiating wage increases while treating benefits as an after-

Mayor Martin J. Walsh

thought has led to disaster for many public pension funds. But that isn’t what construction unions and employers do. Here’s an example. Last summer I helped negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the Boston plumbers union. After a series of meetings, we employers agreed to a raise of $2 an hour. This agreement did not presume that additional money would magically appear for benefit programs. If workers wanted to strengthen their health or pension plans, or to operate the union training school in Dorchester, funding would come from their wages. And because we employers hold an equal number of

votes on all the union funds’ boards, we ensure a business eye is brought to those decisions. Sadly, construction unions (and unionized contractor groups like the one I represent) have historically done a poor job helping the public understand that we operate in ways that distinguish us from the common impression of “unions.” Walsh says he’s interested in strengthening the middle class in Boston. Having sat across the table from him, I have no doubt about his commitment. But once he takes the employer’s seat, the standards he lived by during his years with construction unions will serve Bostonians well.

CHAMBER MUSIC The Bo Winkler Band performed at the World Plumbing Day gala at the Plumbing Museum. The seat upon which a drummer sits is called a “throne.” It appears that this drummer had his choice of thrones. See more about World Plumbing Day on page 4. PAGE 3

Innovative Pre-Apprenticeship Program Builds Pathways and Pipelines Continued from page 1 Among the topics covered in the program is construction math, one of the prerequisite skills for all building trades. Participants also learn about blueprint reading, labor history, technical tools of the trades, and other items to give them a general overview of the industry. “One of the most important goals is to instill a work ethic,” Kindell adds. “We are very strict about attendance and arriving on time, for example.” A large part of the program is spent visiting the building trade unions’ training centers. Participants attend OSHA 10 and first aid/CPR courses presented by the sheet metal workers. They also earn credentials at the carpenters’ local for EPA Lead, Renovation, and Repair. While they are on site at the various locals, Building Pathways class members are able to get a sense of the different disciplines and help determine the best trade match. According to Kindell, as a result of visiting the training centers, participants inevitably change their minds about the trades they intend to pursue. The Building Pathways team provides participants with career coaching, placement, and retention support. The program boasts an 85% placement rate. Hugh Kelleher, the executive director of the PHCC of Greater Boston, is a recurring

guest speaker. He talks to the participants about the contractors and management side of the industry. “I’m happy to contribute to the classes,” Kelleher says. “The students are inspiring. It is really a wonderful program.” Among the graduates who have been accepted into Local 12’s apprentice program are Leopold Njieptchi (see accompanying story in this issue), Sylvia Rocha, Nohely Cabrera, and Sylvia Valez. Rick Carter, the director of the PHCC of Greater Boston and Local 12 Training Center, says that Building Pathways does a great job introducing candidates to the industry and helping them achieve their goals. He participates on a panel of mock interviewers and coaches students in their interview skills. “We will do anything we can to support the program,” Carter says.

THREE MEN AND A TUB- At the World Plumbing Day gala are (L to R), John Cannistraro, president of J. C. Cannistraro, Tyrone Kindell, Jr., project coordinator for Building Pathways, and Hugh Kelleher, PHCC of Greater Boston executive director.

World Plumbing Day Gala Raises Funds, Awareness Members of the local plumbing industry joined their counterparts around the globe by shining a light on the important work that they do and promoting World Plumbing Day. A gala, Looking Forward, Giving Back, was presented by and held at The Plumbing Museum in Watertown in the spring. In addition to raising awareness, the event generated over $30,000, half of which will support the not-for-profit museum and half of which was donated to the Building Pathways program. The pre-apprenticeship program

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provides opportunities for people, particularly women and minorities, to explore and prepare for careers in the construction industry. As part of Boston’s World Plumbing Day celebration, the MassPlumbers sponsored a series of informative promotional spots on WBUR radio and generated a number of newspaper articles about the event, the museum, and the industry. “We were pleased to help the museum and students who want to join our profession,” says Harry Brett, Local 12’s business manager.

Plumbers & Gasfitters Boston Local 12 1240 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02125 617-288-5400

Editorial Board Harry Brett Business Manager, U.A. Local 12 Edward Strickland President, PHCC of Greater Boston George Donahue Business Agent, U.A. Local 12 Hugh Kelleher Executive Director, PHCC of Greater Boston Roger Gill Funds Administrator, U.A. Local 12

The Pipeline- August 2014  

News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry. Highlights include the Building Pathways program, Helmets for Hardha...

The Pipeline- August 2014  

News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry. Highlights include the Building Pathways program, Helmets for Hardha...