UA graduates move the tassels on their caps at the Aug. 18 completion ceremony. (Photo by CJ South)

UA graduates move the tassels on their caps at the Aug. 18 completion ceremony. (Photo by CJ South)


For the nearly 2,000 members of the United Association of Union Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Welders and HVACR Technicians, better known as the UA, Washtenaw Community College must feel like a summer home.

This August marked the 27th year the UA returned to WCC’s campus for its annual training event. But the UA members are here to work and learn; this is not a vacation, but a commitment to becoming the best in the business.

“It’s the trainers training the trainers,” said UA General President William Hite. “Training is the life blood of our industry and we spend $270 mil-lion a year – no other organization can make that claim.”

Hite noted that the knowledge and skills that are acquired here by these UA instructors will be taken back to local unions across the United States and Canada, ensuring that apprentices in every corner of North America have access to the latest skilled trade techniques. New courses this year included: Methods In Teaching Drainage Systems; Reliable Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems; Infectious Control Risk Assessment, Laser Scanning and Management of New Refrigerants/EPA Regulations, among many others.

An emerging global economy, Hite said, is having an impact on the skilled trades. “The industry is changing,” he said. “If we don’t stay on top of things, we’ll be pushed aside.”

WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca noted that the UA’s Instructor Training program is renowned because “the UA has made a commitment to a lifetime of learning, high standards and an expectation of excellence.”

A completion ceremony for newly certified instructors was held on Aug. 18 at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center and was emceed by UA Director of Training Chris Haslinger.

Haslinger gave a rundown of the week’s activities and said the 2016 Instructor Training class was the second largest class ever with 1,765 instructors taking classes, 367 for the first time. Out of the 113 courses, 20 were brand new.

During the ceremony, Dr. Bellanca spoke about invaluable connection between training and meeting the work-force demands of business and industry. She also conferred 14 associate degrees in Applied Science.

WCC’s relationship with the UA will go on well into the future. In 2014, the college and the UA signed a 15-year contract to continue the partnership.

The UA’s presence here has a significant economic impact on area businesses including restaurants and retail outlets. According to Mary A. Kerr, President and CEO of the Washtenaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the estimated economic impact is roughly $6 million.

By Susan Ferraro, APR

Director of Media Relations