A desire to work with her hands and gain skills and confidence is what brought Savannah Marvets into the plumbing and pipefitting industry. Today, she is a member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286 and close to completing her apprenticeship program and becoming a licensed plumber.
Her journey began during her senior year of high school, when she first learned about career opportunities in the plumbing and pipefitting industry.
“I knew I wasn’t ready for college, and I wanted to work with my hands, and this was the best fit,” Savannah said.
During high school, Savannah attended Tulsa Welding School’s pipefitting program in Tulsa, Okla. In 2013, she graduated high school and the program, then joined Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286 in Austin and entered their five-year apprenticeship program that September. As an apprentice, Savannah has learned in both traditional classroom setups and with hands-on experiences.
“I wanted to be confident in what I was doing, and know it well, so I could do it for myself. It gave me a lot of confidence in what I do,” she said.
For Savannah, on-the-job training means gaining professional experience with a local employer: “I am with a plumbing and mechanical company, and have worked on the plumbing side for about a year. We do a lot of remodels for old chillers and boilers—we replace them and run the new piping to the new systems we install. Over the summer, we work on air conditioning units at schools and government buildings,” Savannah said.
She added, “It’s a small company and I am learning a bunch. I am lucky, because I get to do it all.”
Opportunities to demonstrate her skills also come from friendly competitions: “Our local [union] had a contest, and I competed with two other students, and I beat them. Then I went to a contest in Waco with all the unions in Texas, and I won that one, too,” Savannah said.
“Then I went to the district level, which is all the states in the Southeast, and I placed third. We did a layout project, pipefitting, welding, tube bending, soldering and brazing, as well as an ISO and written test. It was a lot of fun.”
Plumbing is an industry traditionally dominated by men. But for Savannah, this hasn’t negatively impacted her experience: “Everyone treats me like a little sister or daughter. Everyone is looking out for me, or getting me involved in what they are trying to teach. I really like that,” she said.
Savannah was nervous at the program’s beginning, but by sticking with it and having more and more positive experiences, her doubt is gone and she has become more confident: “I feel like I’ve taken a lot from this program,” she said.
“There is always something going on in this trade, and that’s what I like most about it. One day you’re doing something and the next day you do something completely different. They keep you on your toes, but it’s fun and always a new experience,” Savannah said.
About the Plumbers and Pipefitters Apprenticeship Program
The Plumbers and Pipefitters Apprenticeship Program is jointly sponsored by the Mechanical Contractors Association of Austin, Inc., and Local Union 286 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. The program is recognized by the Texas Education Agency, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The apprenticeship program lasts five years, and requires 10,000 hours of on-the-job training and 1,225 hours of classroom instruction in subjects related to the trade. The program also includes a probation period of 1,000 hours of employment and a review at each level of advancement. The on-the-job phase requires employment by a qualified contractor, and enables apprentices to earn their way while learning the trade.
For more information, visit the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286 website.