The future of the plumbing program at the Lorain County JVS has been called into question — but it’s not down the drain yet.
The Pittsfield Township vocational school is the last in Ohio to offer a stand-alone track to train young students in the trade, while others statewide have moved to a combined plumbing-HVAC certification.
Discontinuation of the program effective July 1, 2017, was discussed and tabled Feb. 18 by the JVS board.
Many teachers and some labor and business representatives congratulated each other that the decision was delayed.
“It was appropriate,” said Eric Robson, teacher’s association president and a JVS instructor. “We feel that with our experience, our teachers can help make proper educated decisions on matters like this.”
JVS superintendent Glenn Faircloth said the state is pushing programs with multiple certifications.
“It’s an a’la carte system that the state is driving,” he said. “A lot of programs are different than the one that was orginally started. It’s also impossible to get everything into one program.”
The upcoming retirement of Frank Abbey, who has led the JVS plumbing track for years, has also put the program’s future in question.
There are currently six students plumbing and pipefitting students who remain to complete the program in their senior year.
“If we cannot find a qualified, certified instructor, our suggestion would be for these students to move into the HVAC program,” Faircloth said. If students are not interested in that, they could select another program, he said.
Supporters of the program packed the room to hear the discussion. “Our desire is to keep this program open to students of our associate schools and continue to supply our labor community well-trained students and future fantastic trades people,” Robson said.
Randy Esser, owner of Ray Esser & Sons plumbing company of Elyria, said he has hired many JVS graduates as employees since 1988. The industry is in constant need of a well-trained younger workforce, he said.
“If we are the last plumbing class in Ohio left, then let’s set the precedent so they can get back on board and we become the leader in the plumbing program,” he said.
Jeffrey Bommer, business manager of IBEW Local 129, said all the business trades need well-trained workers. “What scares me about this is if it hits the plumbing it may be the electrical next,” he said.
JVS board members said there are many unknowns such as how many students might be interested in entering the program next fall.
Ayers Ratliff, who represents the Wellington Schools on the board, said watering down the program and combining it with HVAC will make it impossible for students to know much about either profession.
“Our numbers are low, they have been since 2000, but they are important numbers,” said board member Anne Schaum, from the Oberlin school district.
Many board members said they have heard from business and labor about the growing need for a well-trained workforce and the hope the program would not close.
One is Daniel Lucas, vice president of Lucas Plumbing & Heating: “The trades that built this country are slowly becoming a lost art,” Lucas wrote. “Now, more than ever, we need to have the opportunities for young people to learn not just plumbing but all trades.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photo by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
Eric Robson, president of the teacher’s association at the Lorain County JVS, reads a statement about the importance of keeping the plumbing and pipefitters program.