Online Training for CEUs Doesn’t Have to be Boring

Take a hard look at your training method and how that might change during this pandemic.

WAIT! Before you start grumbling and flip to the next article, give me a chance to elaborate on the title. I know a large percentage of you are sick of hearing about the “new normal” and several of you believe that we will eventually get back to business as usual in the coming months.

I hope you are right, but I have a feeling we are too far into this to completely go back to what we perceived as normal prior to the pandemic.

Think about it like this for a moment. Until the mid to late 1990s, copper was the most widely used material for water piping systems. Today PEX is, for the most part, the material of choice due to a wide range of reasons. You could almost say it’s the new normal.

Flashback to the past 12 months: COVID-19, wildfires, hate crimes, riots, protesting, and of course we cannot close it out without mentioning politics. All things that would force anyone to ask what normal is anymore.

Now here is where this article begins to tie together all of the things mentioned above and get us back on track to how this is plumbing related. Last March, our country recognized that plumbers were essential to protecting public health.

Plumbers deal with ensuring safe water and sanitation systems are installed to protect the health of the nation. We do so by installing water treatment equipment, safe potable water supply systems, and drain, waste and vent systems.

To do this, we need to become educated in understanding the codes, theory and science that accompanies the trade. As part of our training, we learn the hands-on skills needed to install plumbing for our customers. This typically begins with serving an apprenticeship and learning in the classroom while also working full time in the field as an apprentice under a journeyman or master plumber.

Once an apprenticeship is completed, many individuals write a state exam and become licensed. This license usually comes with the requirement of maintaining your knowledge of the plumbing trade by acquiring continuing education units between renewal periods. As an example, here in Wisconsin, I need 24 hours of credits every four years. To attain these credits, we typically attend in-person classes where the provider does a presentation based on something code related or the latest and greatest products in the plumbing market. Since the outbreak of the pandemic however, the way we acquire these credits has changed. We find ourselves hard pressed to take classes face to face due to gathering restrictions.

Some states have suspended the requirement for CEUs during the pandemic while others have moved to the virtual method and require either online or webinar-based training as a substitution. This is very similar to what is happening in our K-12 and higher education environments. It has changed the way we are being forced to learn due to the circumstances.

I truly think the success for this type of learning is twofold. First the provider needs to “think outside of the box” and come to grips with the idea of changing the way they have forever offered training. Secondly, I think the learner needs to remain open-minded and remember the purpose for the training — to maintain our level of knowledge as it relates to plumbing.

Over the past 12 months I have seen some of the worst and some of the best classes related to the trade. Some were just “talking heads” and it was easy to lose focus on the topic because of the monotone vibe of the class.

The classes I liked most were the ones where I was able to do something. I think it would be safe to say that for most of us the reason we got into this trade was because we enjoy working with our hands and problem solving to “fix it.” So why should our continuing education be different, right?

Imagine a class where you had to do water pipe sizing and were going to add a softener or tankless water heater. Would there be a need for pipe size changes? If so, how would you go about determining it? Or what if you were given a DWV drawing and asked to size it during the presentation while reviewing code requirements? What about selecting the proper backflow preventer for the job to protect the water supply and the instructor put it on you, the plumber, to make the call and then have the ability to discuss the decision with your peers.

I’m going to do something different and ask you to assist me with your training needs. Would you consider taking a poll for me on the types of virtual training that you would like to see online? What can I do to help you get engaged? Below is the link for the poll.

The way we do things has changed because of the pandemic. Like PEX versus copper, we have accepted it as the new normal and in most cases, thrived and became better at what we do because of it. Why should our education be any different?  


Randy Lorge is a third-generation plumber and the director of workforce training and development for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Lorge is also a member of the planning team for the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH). This 501(c) (3) foundation has completed water and sanitation projects for those less fortunate in India, South Africa, Indonesia and, more recent, the United States. He enjoys time with his family and spending as much time as possible in his deer stand. To contact Lorge, email


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