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ANN ARBOR - A class of 22 students from five Michigan-based plumbers and pipe fitters locals were the first group of what will be thousands of journeymen and apprentices to utilize the newly opened UA Regional Training Facility.
Located on the campus of Washtenaw Community College, the $4.2 million, 22,000 square-foot building opened in September and will act as the "center of operations" for the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters' four other Regional Training Centers around the country. These training centers distribute basic and specialized training to the 300-plus UA local union training programs already in existence.
On Oct. 21, the 22 UA members from around Michigan were the first to utilize the building, taking the UA STAR HVACR certification exam. A review class was held before the exam. The instructors for the class came from Ann Arbor Local 190 Business Manager Ron House's HVACR training program. Successful completion of the test earns applicants 30 hours of college credit toward an Associate's Degree in Construction Supervision from Washtenaw Community College.
Successful completion of the test is part of the STAR marketing program by the UA, which assures employers that these journeymen have had the training necessary to excel in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration service.
"Passage of the test assures owners and employers that they have a certified, trained worker," said Steve Allen, director of the Great Lakes Regional Training Center. "Developing the test was a real challenge, it was developed from a detailed task analysis of each trade. An analysis at this level allows you to further refine your curriculum. You can say, 'if these are the skills we use, then these are the skills we should be teaching.' All that had to be taken into consideration."
The contents of the four-hour test were developed by United Association trainers in conjunction with contractors, owners, and test construction experts from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. The test can be taken at any of the five regional training centers around the country, or at local unions and training centers. Members can prepare for the exam via remote video-conferencing and the UA's web-based training program.
The comprehensive UA STAR exam can be taken by apprentices completing their five-year training program, or by veteran piping and HVACR service professionals in the field who want to further their careers. UA STAR certification exams are available for HVACR, Plumbing, Pipefitting, and Sprinklerfitting. Testing for the STAR program is administered by a third party, and the entire process is ANSI and ISO 9000 accredited.
"There are a lot of fly-by-night contractors out there, especially in the service industry," said Michigan Pipe Trades Association President Jim Davis, who is also business manager of UA Local 333. "Someday, if state licensing for service technicians ever comes to pass, we're going to be ready."
The STAR testing is only part of what's going on at the Great Lakes Regional Training Center. The building will serve as a magnet in the Midwest for pipe trades training, with both permanent classes as well as courses geared toward the needs of individual journeymen for specific jobs.
The training center has classrooms wired for distance learning capability and Internet access, two general purpose labs, one with special features for training HVACR service technicians, a 24-station computer classroom and two oversized classrooms to accommodate up to 40 students in each.
There is also a 48-seat auditorium-styled distance learning classroom, expandable to 72 students. It includes an instructional stage and three-projection set-up capable of broadcasting instruction to UA training sites around North America. The building will also be used during the union's annual Instructor Training Program every August.
"These training centers aren't state of the art, we're beyond that," said UA General President Martin Maddaloni during the building's dedication in August. "We're well beyond any training offered anywhere in the world."
|UNITED ASSOCIATION members from around Michigan were the first to use the UA's new Regional Training Facility at Washtenaw Community College.
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