Local 412 members install plumbing training facility at Navajo Technical University

Local 412 members install plumbing training facility at Navajo Technical University

The Navajo Nation’s first dedicated plumbing training program was launched this past fall after the completion of a new plumbing classroom and wet lab at the Navajo Technical University (NTU) Kirtland Instructional Site in Kirtland, N.M. 

The new facility offers a three-semester, 34-credit plumbing certificate program. The International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH), in collaboration with DigDeep, partnered with NTU to launch the first plumbing program of its kind for the Navajo Nation. 

The program will provide students with introductory courses covering plumbing concepts and applications to give them the skillsets they need to start a career in plumbing. 

Students who complete the program will receive advanced standing in the selection process for an apprenticeship with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 412, Albuquerque, N.M.

“We’ve been talking about doing a plumbing program at NTU for the past five years,” Local 412 Business Manager Courtenay Eichhorst said. “Our need hasn’t slowed down, so we thought this would be a great way to bring your people in, get them trained through this plumbing program and then we can bring them into our apprenticeship program direct entry.”

For several years, Local 412 has partnered with IWSH on projects to bring water access and work opportunities to the Navajo Nation. Nine Local 412 members assisted in the completion of building the hands-on plumbing training facility.

The NTU plumbing classroom is a fully functional lab equipped with residential-style bathroom and kitchen fixtures, commercial fixtures and various types of water heaters, from electric to propane, to natural gas.

“As part of the development of the program, IWSH and DigDeep worked together to receive a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief,” IWSH Program Director Randy Lorge said. “The grant money was used to supply the program with the latest and greatest hands-on tools from companies such as Milwaukee Tool, including everything from basic hand tools to battery-powered tools.”

American Technical Publishers and Ferguson also gave donations for the project. 

Plumbing program will provide more work opportunities  

Local 412 member Lorenzo Gurule is the instructor for the new program at NTU and is currently teaching six students. 

“Before they complete their certificate program at the end of this year, we’re going to interview each one of them so we can place them as soon as they finish,” Eichhorst said. “Right now, I have a need in northern New Mexico, so if he teaches six students a year, that’s six brand new apprentices I could place in northern New Mexico.”

Roughly 25 percent of Local 412’s members are indigenous people and the Local wants to make sure they give back to their community by giving these young people a better opportunity. 

Local 412 is grateful to IWSH and IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials) and everybody who has helped with projects on the Navajo Reservation. 

“We appreciate their support, especially Randy and Jed Scheuermann, who have come to New Mexico a lot the last six years,” Eichhorst said. 

The plumbing program creates a pathway to work opportunities for Navajo residents. It will also provide manpower for Local 412 and help expand clean-water access across the Navajo Nation.

“Having worked on several IWSH projects throughout the reservation, lack of safe water and sanitation is, of course, the biggest problem,” Lorge said. “While we can put in plumbing and provide water systems when we’re there, it’s just not enough because there will always be a need for plumbing and eventually that plumbing is going to need someone to service it. 

IWSH works to ensure that when we go in and do a project, we get local residents involved and then leave behind an educational piece so that they can continue to carry on the work for themselves. It’s the ‘teach a man to fish’ concept. This program is the pinnacle of doing that.”