Wrapping up a successful week of training at Washtenaw Community College, United Association General President Mark McManus called the 1,835 union members who traveled to Ann Arbor for the annual Instructor Training Program the backbone and the future of an organization that represents more than 343,000 plumbers, pipe-fitters, sprinkler fitters, steam fitters, welders and service techs across the United States and Canada.

UA member Morey Cannady, from Local 208 in Denver, celebrates receiving his instructor certification from UA Director of Education and Training Chris Haslinger (left) and an associate degree from WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. | Photo by Lon Horwedel

The ceremony -— which included a keynote address from United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta — was the exclamation point on the union’s 28th year of hosting its week-long Instructor Training Program at WCC, during which students take college-level training courses to become certified UA journeymen and apprentice instructors.

Those receiving associate degrees completed online courses in programs designed specifically for UA members.

“Although we call this a completion ceremony, really it is the beginning of a learning cycle in which you will share what you learned here with your peers and colleagues,” WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca said. “They, in turn, will share the information with their co-workers, benefiting current and future generations of skilled tradesmen and women.”

When Bellanca asked those who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree to stand and move their tassels to the left side of their cap, the college’s alumni base expanded with new members from San Francisco to Juneau, Alaska, to Shreveport, Louisiana, and beyond.

Richard Jacobs, a union plumber and inspector for the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, earned both an associate degree from WCC and UA instructor certification.

He said the associate degree was the fulfillment of a personal challenge that began in 2007, when he attended his first UA Instructor Training Program.

“I can use the degree in the career path I’ve chosen, but it also helps in other ways,” Jacobs said. “It really solidifies the choices I’ve made and the training I’ve received.”