Technology School Restores Plumbing Classes To Curriculum

Plug Had Been Pulled On Program In '89 For Lack Of Students

January 02, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

The pipe threaders that went into storage when the plumbing program at Howard County School of Technology was discontinued are being brought out again.

The county school system will restore plumbing courses, which were dropped for lack of students in June 1989, to the vocational program when the school's second semester begins later this month.

"The school board is being very generous," said John A. Myers, supervisor of vocational education. He indicated that enrollment may beabout half the 15 students Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said last year would be needed to reinstate the program.

"When the enrollment settled out this year, we had enough students for one section forhalf a day," Myers said.

Plumbing instructor Gary P. McNamara Jr., who joined the staff in November and began planning the plumbing curriculum, was recruiting prospective students before schools closed for the winter holiday. He said students visited to check out the program "just about every day."

McNamara, owner of Northwest Plumbing in Carroll County, is enthusiastic about recruiting and teaching students.

"There is fairly good money to be made in the trades. I think more people should take a look at that," he said. In his 10 years in plumbing, both as a worker and store owner, he said he has seen many apprentices arrive unprepared.

The students who come to McNamara's shop in the construction trades area of the School of Technology will learn to punch in, toolboxes in hand and boots on, and be ready to start work when the bell rings.

Wade Kelly, an Atholton High School junior from Laurel, will be part of the new class. As a sophomore, Wade enrolled in the air-conditioning program, but figured the reopened plumbing course would allow him to learn two trades instead of one.

"I jumped at the chance," he said, adding that job openings look good in plumbing, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.

Skills he has learned in air conditioning, such as soldering and braising (a longer-lasting heat seal than solder), will be useful in plumbing, Wade said. After graduation, he plans to attend a trade school for additional training.

McNamara has been meeting with local plumbers to learn what preparation they want School of Technology plumbing graduates to have. Their list of skills includes installing fixtures -- McNamara wants to set up a two-story bathroom mock-up, with the students putting in all the required piping --working with various kinds of pipes and installing a dual manifold sink.

McNamara said hewill start students on residential plumbing and move them quickly tojoin other students in the School of Technology's house constructionproject under way in Columbia.

In the 1991-1992 school year, he hopes to tackle the tougher area of trouble-shooting. McNamara will program the shop's boiler simulator to show a malfunction; students will have to figure out what is wrong and how to correct it. They will move from the simulator to work on real oil burners.

Supervisor Myers credited several factors in the return of the plumbing program to the school.

"There was cooperation from all groups," he said. "I think it is very significant that the Plumbers Association of Howard County thinks enough of the vocational program that they want to keep the program alive and functioning. I think it is very significant that the School of Technology does recruitment (at middle and high schools)."

Hickey said the program is being restored as an effort to meet the need for more workers -- a need expressed by the county plumbers association in meetings with the superintendent.

Although Hickey had originally estimated that 15 students would be needed to restart the program, he said, "We thought maybe it would be worth going ahead with a smaller number. Having the program in place might help to recruit others."

Diane Kastner, executive director of the Ellicott City-based Maryland Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Inc., said the state and area plumbers associations plan to provide suppliesfor the plumbing program and recruit students.

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