Plumbing Predicament: The Drain of Skilled Workers

Plumbing Predicament: The Drain of Skilled Workers

  Chris Bontempo, right, and Zach Bajewski load up an old toilet from a residential property. Bontempo was hired to replace the old toilet with a new Kohler toilet.

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The plumbing industry is facing a significant challenge as many seasoned plumbers approach retirement age, leaving a void in the workforce. Patrick O'Neill, an instructor at Waukesha County Technical College's plumbing program, voices worry about the anticipated decline of nearly 50% in the workforce over the next 15 years. While the plumbing industry is projected to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026, the median age of plumbers in Wisconsin is around 50 years old, highlighting the urgent need for more skilled labor in the field.

The importance of a well-trained plumbing workforce is emphasized by the potential public health risks associated with water system issues. O'Neill stresses the necessity of proper sanitation practices, especially in preventing waterborne diseases. Despite the lack of recent major regional water issues, the 1993 cryptosporidium parvum outbreak in Milwaukee reveals the potential impact of such crises on communities.

Efforts to address the shortage of plumbers include proposed legislative measures such as Assembly Bill 508, which aims to adjust the ratio of apprentices to fully trained plumbers on job sites. Efforts to promote early interest in trade careers among students and the ongoing study on licensing requirements are crucial steps in ensuring a strong plumbing workforce for the future. As O'Neill emphasizes, plumbing is not just a career; it is a noble profession that provides essential services to society.

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