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Tradeskills Taught by Local Industry Professionals

The Construction Trades programs at Smithville High School are giving students employable skills in the plumbing and electrical fields. In its third year, the program has 88 students.

Doug’s Plumbing owner Doug Berryann and A&S Electric owner John Summarell both teach for six weeks at the school, with the students practicing the skills they learn. They also donate materials as needed.

“We teach six weeks of plumbing all the way from toilet repair, water heater repair, soldering, solvent welding with PVC, and then we build little mock houses and we plumb them in,” said Mr. Berryann. “We also have a couple of days dedicated to learning what employers are looking for. From interview to showing up early to dressing and how to act.”s work with the students including creating good local workers, helping students who won’t seek higher education and the shortage of plumbers in the state.

“There are 64,000 plumbers in the state of 27 million people and every building has plumbing,” said Mr. Berryann. “It’s where you live, where you work and where you eat.”

He also shows his pride in his profession, reminding people that it takes eight years to qualify to take the two-day test for a master plumbing license, which has a 45-50 percent failure rate.

“In eight years, you could probably get a PhD,” he said. “It takes a lot of training and years just to qualify to take the master plumbers test.”

He admits that the image most people have of plumbers isn’t very complimentary, saying that a lot of people’s perception was influenced by the professional’s way of dressing and the fact that it is a “dirty job.”

I think we’ve been misunderstood,” said Mr. Berryann. “People think we just carry around a plunger and work with poo. But we do a service. We stop a lot of diseases and make things sanitary. We also do gas, propane, water heating – a lot of comforts that third world countries don’t have.”

Mr. Berryann employed three students, two graduates and one junior, over the summer. One still works for him.

“Instead of just trading guys with bad attitudes that leave another company, I figured we could get more young people in plumbing,” said Mr. Berryann.

Another two students are working for electricians and learning more about the trade. With a class of 15 last year, that’s a third of the students being employed in the trades.

“Those five kids weren’t interested in college; they’d probably be working in a job with no advancement, and one of those kids was in danger of dropping out,” said Mr. Moerbe. “Now he’s employed with a trade. He’s doing good.”

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