ST. PETERSBURG — As long as there are human beings on earth they’re going to need plumbing, according to Eddie Jackson, an instructor of the Plumbing Technology program at Pinellas Technology Educational Center (pTEC).
“Whether you’re washing dishes, washing clothes, taking a bath, drinking water or going to the restroom, you’re going to be dealing with plumbing,” he stated firmly, adding that the plumbing industry is one of the “hot items” in construction as it has really taken off.
The program offered at pTEC St. Pete campus is 960 course hours and takes about 11 and a half months to complete. It is broken down into four courses as it covers residential and commercial plumbing.
In the initial stages of the program, students receive training in safety and get an overview of the history of plumbing. They also learn the use of basic tools of the trade and are familiarized with pipes, fittings and other materials integral to plumbing. The next phase focuses on residential plumbing.
“You learn measuring, marking, cutting different types of pipe,” Jackson said, “reading and interpreting blueprints and specifications, on-site ground installations, those type things.”
Next students will move into commercial plumbing, where they actually start to install job site fixtures, Jackson said. Ultimately they learn to do troubleshooting and diagnosing plumbing systems, repair and replace sanitary lines.
Jackson said it takes six years to actually get a journeyman’s card to be classified as a plumber.
“From here you leave as a plumber’s helper,” he explained. “Once you successfully complete the course here, you are awarded up to two years toward the six years you’ll need to sit for your journeyman’s card. You work with licensed journeymen on the job.”
The plumbing program also has a matriculation agreement with St. Petersburg College for credit.
“Once they complete they program here they can get up to 12 credit hours toward an A.A. in building construction, building management, something along those lines,” Jackson said.
As expected, this is very much a hands-on class and there is no online portion.
“It’s all traditional, where the student shows up from 7:30 to 12:45,” Jackson said. “It’s broken down about 50-50 between academic and performance. So they get 50 percent theory and lectures and the other part is hands on and installations.”
Jackson explained that they have mock-up equipment to simulate actual plumbing situations, but students do have the opportunity to handle real repairs.
“We replace faucets, stuck drains and things like that around the school,” he said, “so they get a lot of live work that they can actually get credit for as part of their hands-on training.”
This is certainly a good time to get into the plumbing field, Jackson averred, and noted that pTEC helps place its graduates, stressing that students still remain a high priority when they leave the center.
“Right now plumbing is wide open,” he said. “I get calls and emails weekly from companies looking for good, solid people to come out and train as journeymen. I have two gentlemen who graduated last week that are both working already!”
He added that people of all ages have come through the program, some of them merely wanting to become adept at handling home plumbing jobs on their own—a useful skill to possess.
“I’ve had students in their 60s,” he said. “I’ve had people come through the program with master’s degrees, doctorates, and what have you. So a lot of them come in to be able to do plumbing around the house!”
Jackson stressed that he would like to see more young people get involved straight out of high school, as the program can make a great difference in a young person’s life.
“Plumbing gives you a great opportunity to a great life,” he said. “You start out as an apprentice, move onto a journeyman, become a foreman, supervisor, superintendent, own your business — there are so many avenues that you can follow from your basic plumbing program.”
A teacher since 1978, Jackson transferred to pTEC 24 years ago. Previously he taught plumbing technology at Pinellas Park High School. It is clear that Jackson is passionate about the profession and stressed how important plumbing and sanitation is to any community and even civilization itself.
“It’s been rumored that the fall of the Roman Empire was due to all the lead and unsanitary conditions during that time,” he postulated. “It’s also been rumored that plumbers have saved more lives than doctors! Plumbing is vital and people take it so much for granted until it hits home and the plumber knocks on the door. Then you really understand how important it is!”
A St. Pete resident, Jackson stated that giving back to the community and helping people are what he loves most about teaching.
“You acquire certain knowledge along the way,” he said, “and I just get joy from my students calling me back and being so appreciative of the opportunity they got from taking the program that I am fortunate to be in charge of. I love coming to work every day and sharing what I’ve been blessed to have with others.”
The next plumbing class starts in Aug. 18, so if you’re interested in this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org