Public Can Visit State Pipe Trades Competition

Plumber and pipefitter apprentices will continue putting their skills to the test today on the final day of the annual West Virginia Pipe Trades Apprenticeship Contest.

The competition, which draws the top plumbers and pipefitters from unions across the state, is being held at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 83, 117 29th St. in Wheeling. Morgan Morgan, 24, of New Martinsville and Keith Kidd, 21, of Moundsville are representing Local 83 during the competition that began Tuesday.

Eric O’Donnell, Local 83 training coordinator, said the public also can stop in and see what the competition is like and learn more about the trades, which include plumbing, welding, pipefitting, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“All the contestants do rigging – that’s the toughest part of the contest,” O’Donnell said, referring to getting pipes ready to be maneuvered and lowered into place by a crane operator.

In addition to rigging, other tests include erecting HVAC electrical systems, installing piping systems for household plumbing and welding.

Before reaching the journeyman status, apprentices must have five years, or about 8,000 hours, of training and take a final test. They also must learn and use higher math, such as algebra and trigonometry, and science involving chemical mixtures and pump pressures.

Walter “Fuzz” LaRue, a fair contracting representative for the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, said there are 73 apprentices currently training at the facility. He said Local 83 is training workers for the pipe trades as quickly as possible to meet the demand for workers in the natural gas industry. The training the workers receive, he said, are paid for by the apprenticeship fund which is contributed to by local companies. It is overseen by the Department of Labor, he added.

“We know the jobs are dangerous – that’s why we do the training,” LaRue said. “We train them as fast and proficiently as possible.”

Winners will go on to a regional competition in Pittsburgh.