As a local leader in residential and commercial plumbing and HVAC service, CPI Plumbing & Heating is a trusted provider of high-quality repairs, installations and maintenance services.

They serve customers in Whatcom, Skagit, Island and northern Snohomish Counties, and now they’re providing another service to strengthen the quality of both their business and their industry: an apprenticeship program.

CPI Plumbing’s Mt. Vernon-based training facility provides ample opportunity for apprentices to learn skills that can help them address any real-life field situation. Photo courtesy CPI Plumbing & Heating

The 12-month program provides accepted apprentices with paid, benefited, full-time employment at CPI as they learn the ins and outs of plumbing and HVAC, eventually being able to test and obtain their Washington State Residential Specialty Plumbing License.

Monica Craig, head of marketing for CPI, says the idea for the program began in 2019, when Brad Tully and Oly Olsen assumed ownership of the company. Tully conceived of building a training facility, which would supplement further investment in company training.

By the end of 2019, those ideas had become reality, with a fully developed training curriculum and in-house training facility at their Mount Vernon warehouse. The apprenticeship is led by Steve Murray, CPI’s HVAC department manager. He has 37 years of industry experience, has been a licensed journeyman plumber for more than 30 years, a certified vocation instructor for more than 20 years, and a licensed 06A Specialty electrician and electrical administrator for more than 20 years. 

CPI’s apprenticeship program includes written quizzes, in-person assessments and even virtual reality trainings. Photo courtesy CPI Plumbing & Heating

Murray also serves as a member of the CITC Mechanical Trades Apprenticeship Council, is a CEU instructor for both online and live classes, and has developed more than two dozen courses for Washington State as well as Oregon, Florida, and several other states.

Craig says creating an in-house training program is especially important at a time when numerous trades are in need of quality technicians. 

 “For our trade, there’s about one person coming in for every four that are retiring,” she says. “Our ability to provide work and grow as a company is really hard if you don’t have people interested in your trade.”

Nuts and Bolts

The new apprenticeship’s inaugural class launched in October, with four students on a plumbing track. A second plumbing class will begin in January, with open enrollment ending just before Christmas. An HVAC-focused training session is planned for mid-2021, and there’s no cap limit on class sizes. 

The pathway to a rewarding career in plumbing or HVAC begins with a paid apprenticeships with CPI Plumbing. Apprenticeships feature plenty of hands-on experience at their training lab. Photo courtesy CPI Plumbing & Heating

Anybody who’s mechanically inclined and eager to learn about plumbing or HVAC is encouraged to apply, Craig says. The goal is to build new technicians from the ground up, which is why the program even addresses foundational skills, like proper use of hand tools. This might be especially important for apprentices coming directly out of high school or who otherwise lack previous experience. 

All the knowledge an apprentice will need to eventually obtain their state license for residential plumbing will be addressed in the training. Washington State requires 6,000 hours of experience to obtain the license, capped at 2,000 hours annually. By the end of training, the apprentice will move forward to the next steps of their career and work toward having their own work truck.

The first eight weeks of training involve learning a lot from Murray, and continue afterward with supervising technicians and ride-along observations. As a whole, the curriculum is a combination of written quizzes and homework, plus ample hands-on assessments at CPI’s training lab. Craig says they’ve utilized as much virtual training as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hope to get back to maximizing in-person training as soon as is allowed in 2021. 

The training lab is fully-plumbed and set up to address a wide range of situations a tech might face, include worst-case scenarios. This kind of preparation ensures techs are adequately prepared for whatever they may encounter in the field. 

The apprenticeship program is led by Steve Murray (left), CPI’s HVAC department manager and one of just 50 Washington state-certified journeymen fully-licensed in both plumbing and HVAC. Photo courtesy CPI Plumbing & Heating

Most things that our apprentices would see in the real world, we’re able to create that in our training lab and then have them troubleshoot it,” Craig says.

Throughout each week of their apprenticeship, voluntary trainings on weekday mornings are also offered for anyone wanting additional re-enforcement and learning. Craig says the company has high expectations for their apprentices, something that’s reflected clearly in the level of work they already provide their customers.

In a world where quality, good-paying jobs with ample room for professional and personal growth can be hard to come by, a CPI apprenticeship program could be a person’s first step towards a great career and life. 

 “You’re getting to learn and you’re getting paid to build your career,” says Craig. “There are not a lot of industries that provide that.”

Interested in applying to CPI’s apprenticeship program? Please visit their website at www.cpiplumbing.com/careers to learn more.

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