STEAMFITTERS TOUR

Training center wows labor secretary

November 18, 2021 Cranberry Local News


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Steamfitters Local 449 business manager Ken Broadbent gives a tour of the Technology Center training facility in Jackson Township to Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier on Wednesday.

JACKSON TWP — For Jennifer Berrier, the Steamfitters Technology Center offers a wealth of opportunity for Western Pennsylvanians interested in entering the building trades.

Berrier, the state's secretary of labor and industry, visited Butler County for the first time as secretary Wednesday to see what she called one of the larger and more impressive building trade training centers across the state.

Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier speaks with an instructor during a tour of the Steamfitters Local 449 Technology Center training facility Wednesday in Jackson Township. PHOTOGRAPHY BY Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

“This is intimidating,” she said while touring a segment of the building with different types of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. “I didn't realize how much different equipment there was.”

The labor secretary has visited other training centers in Pennsylvania, but remarked the Jackson Township building — only four years old — has equipment allowing apprentices to learn on appliances old and new.

“It's very clear when you walk through here that they have the most up-to-date technology,” Berrier said. “There's nothing here that's outdated.”

Steamfitters Local 449 instructor Frank Gray speaks with Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier.

Berrier noted the importance of the Steamfitters and other building trades, particularly given the recent passage and enactment of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill. Pennsylvania, Berrier said, is slated to receive billions of dollars for improvements to different types of infrastructure.

To complete those projects — and the much more work that will be needed in the future — means there will be a higher demand for skilled workers. And, Berrier said, the Steamfitters Local 449's five-year apprenticeship program is a good way to fill that role — both for those in need of their skills and for those interested in entering the trades.

Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier gets a tour from Steamfitters Local #449 business manager Ken Broadbentat the Butler training facility Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 11/17/21

“You come out of an apprenticeship program with an amazing wage and no debt,” she said.

Ken Broadbent, the local's business manager, said apprentices typically make $17 to $18 per hour with health benefits from day one, and can have annual 10% raises. He said he's seen workers exit the apprenticeship program making $45 an hour.

Steamfitters Local #449 business manager Ken Broadbent gives a tour of the Technology Center training facility to Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier Wednesday in Harmony. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 11/17/21

Out of the roughly 1,600 apprenticeship programs statewide, Berrier said, the local's training center was impressive, offering apprentices, journeymen and others the chance to hone and learn skills and receive certifications. In one classroom Berrier visited, for instance, apprentices were learning information and tools necessary to receive certification from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, allowing them to tout those certifications to future employers.

In another classroom, Berrier saw students learning trigonometry and other math topics to help them complete difficult tasks, such as connecting pipes located at different heights.

Steamfitters Local 449 business manager Ken Broadbent gives a tour of the Jackson Township training facility to Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier on Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 11/17/21

“When people think about steamfitter work, they think of connecting pipes, and it's a lot more advanced than that,” she said.

Berrier said her favorite part during the tour was seeing apprentices at work learning to weld, an important part of all steamfitter work, and said she noticed the number of differences between the people she saw.

“It was really, really amazing to see the diversity,” she said. “I think that's really impressive.”

Steamfitters Local #449 business manager Ken Broadbent gives a tour of the Technology Center training facility to Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier Wednesday in Harmony. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle 11/17/21

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Alex J. Weidenhof

Alex J. Weidenhof