LIMA — The United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Technicians Local 776 has expanded its training facility to better serve the individuals learning skilled trades through the organization’s apprenticeship program.
The upgraded facility, located at 1300 Bowman Road, has undergone an 8,000 square-foot expansion. The facility now features 20,000 square feet of space, with 20 welding bays, new exhaust systems, two classrooms equipped with Smart Boards and an open shop for construction projects.
Local 776 also renovated its 4,000 square-foot HVAC and plumbing lab, bringing the project’s total investment to $1.8 million. Mike Knisley, business manager for Local 776, said the entire project was privately funded, and the organization received no tax dollars.
Knisley admitted the renovation was “bittersweet,” as the facility is almost completely different from when he started as an apprentice nearly 30 years ago.
“I just stepped back and thought, ‘Boy, this is not the same place it was when I started here,’ so it is a little bittersweet,” Knisley said. “But I am very proud of it, and I think it’s what we should be doing. We’re supposed to be leaving a legacy that’s better than what we got.”
At the newly renovated facility, apprentices learning the HVAC, plumbing/pipefitting and welding trades will perform around 240 hours of classroom work and hands-on training. In addition, apprentices complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Knisley said the apprenticeship program, which is offered free-of-charge and with the opportunity to gain college credit, helps “change lives.”
“We not only give people hope, but we give them a future,” he said, “and it’s through training that doesn’t cost them anything. Five years later, they progress and go from this young kid to an adult with a career and a skill that can never be taken away from them.
“It’s worked for hundreds of years, and it will be our foundation for generations to come.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima