U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez stopped in Rhode Island Friday. He toured a plumbing and pipefitting apprenticeship facility in East Providence. The program run by the local plumbers and pipefitters’ union receives federal funding.
Union representative Tim Byrne says Perez hosted a roundtable discussion about apprenticeships, and met some of the adults in the program.
“He toured the facility to see what they’re doing, talked to some of them, and then afterwards we got into a little discussion about the importance of apprenticeship,” said Byrne. “And certainly apprenticeship as an alternative to regular secondary, four-year education.”
Byrne added that the apprenticeship program than employs underemployed minority and immigrant workers.
“It also picks people that for one reason or another never had the opportunity to do this,” said Byrne. “So it’s important because I think we’re reaching out to a group of communities who are underserved and underutilized.”
The program takes about six years to complete, certifying students as an official journeymen. Byrne says after a lull in construction and home renovation during the recession, demand for plumbers and pipefitters is on the rebound.