Colorado Company Helps Students See Value in Plumbing Careers

A collaboration with a high school course and an apprenticeship program aimed at high schoolers are methods Neuworks Mechanical is using to groom the next generation of plumbers

Colorado Company Helps Students See Value in Plumbing Careers

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It’s difficult for contractors to easily find younger employees to fill the void left by an increasing number of retirees. But Neuworks Mechanical in Fort Collins, Colorado, is tackling the problem head-on by supporting a trades-oriented high school class and a plumbing apprenticeship program aimed at high schoolers.

Company employees volunteer to teach plumbing concepts in a Geometry and Construction course offered at Loveland High School and Poudre High School (in Fort Collins). Between 20 and 30 students per semester take the course, which centers on building a modular, prefabricated home for Habitat for Humanity, says Travis Slisher, the company’s vice president and chief operating officer. 

“We don’t have a lot of trade schools in Colorado, so this course emulates that,” he says. “The students learn about math and apply it to construction applications such as framing. They also learn about general construction components. We donate plumbing materials for the home, and our employees teach plumbing concepts.”

Other area contractors also contribute materials and labor to the homebuilding project. The home is built in a school parking lot, then moved on a trailer for placement on a pre-poured concrete foundation.

“It’s a great way to get kids interested in the construction industry,” Slisher says. “If the home is built during a school year, we plumb the house with the students. If it’s built during the summer, we complete the plumbing after the home has been set on the foundation.”

Neuworks Mechanical also started a high school apprenticeship program for aspiring plumbers in August 2019. Three of the company’s six current apprentices came to Neuworks Mechanical via either the Geometry and Construction class or the apprenticeship program. Three might not seem like a huge number, but it’s a great start, Slisher says.

“We’re starting to see traction,” he says. “The apprenticeship program is a natural progression from our involvement in the Geometry and Construction course. We talk a lot about apprenticeships and their value, and we’re trying to get more local companies to invest in them.”

To enhance the program, Neuworks Mechanical holds quarterly career-day tours of the company for students ranging from sixth grade through high school.

“We put pipe wrenches in their hands and let them do actual work,” Slisher says. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up when someone asks them to solder a pipe, for example.

“We’ve got to start somewhere to cultivate that shift in mindset toward considering trades for a career. We can offer them a career in their hometown with few worries about job security — losing jobs to overseas companies. To me, there’s no more noble calling than providing people with clean and sanitary drinking water.”

Read more about Neuworks Mechanical in the October 2020 issue of Plumber magazine.


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