Plumbers Training Institute 2021 Spring

Plumbing Nonprofits Seeking Volunteers for Texas

In our last blog, we talked about how Winter Storm Uri created a major plumbing crisis for millions of people across Texas. Now, nearly a month later, the recovery process is still ongoing, and Texans need plumbers now more than ever. 

That’s why Plumbers Without Borders (PWB), a Seattle, WA-based nonprofit that normally works to bring clean drinking water to different countries, is shifting its focus to Texas.

Volunteers Wanted

Earlier this month, PWB partnered with Water Mission, another nonprofit water engineering organization, to set up and organize a volunteer effort to help the 14 million people affected by the winter storm.

“Nearly half of the residents in one of the largest states in the US are experiencing a plumbing catastrophe due to burst pipes from freezing temperatures and significant power outages,” said Water Mission CEO and President, George C. Greene IV, PE. “With such a broad need there is a huge demand for skilled labor and not enough hands to do the work.”

Plumbers Without Borders is working with many partners to bring vital services to the people of Texas. Source: PWB Instagram

According to PWB, what’s needed most right now are licensed plumbers who can drive to the Austin area with their tools and potentially plumbing pipe/fittings, since there is no guarantee piping materials will be available upon arrival. Plumbers with experience in retrofitting systems damaged by freezing temperatures are ideal.

PWB is asking volunteers to serve for a minimum of two weeks. All efforts are prioritized to address the most under-resourced residents with the most urgent needs, such as seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families without insurance.

In order to make the two week volunteer service time possible, plumbing manufacturer American Standard made a donation to help cover food, lodging, and any other expenses plumbers encounter while serving the community.

In a statement, Gene Barbato, the VP of Marketing at American Standard said “we understand that plumbers protect the health of the nation, and we are honored to partner with Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders in these recovery efforts to mobilize skilled plumbers and provide much-needed supplies as quickly as possible. We ask any plumbers who can lend a hand, to please consider volunteering.”

How to Volunteer

PWB has a sign up sheet for local and out of state volunteers. Click here to enter your information and get started. You can also contact PWB at (206) 390-5000 or info@plumberswithoutborders.org if you have any questions.

Out of State Volunteers

If you live in a different state but still want to help, click here to apply for a provisional license that allows you to work in Texas.

Or, if you’re unable to physically travel to Texas and help, here’s a list of charities gathered by Texas Monthly that you can support.

Plumbers From Across the Nation Aid Texas in Storm Recovery

Last week, a major winter storm swept across many parts of the American south. The storm wreaked havoc in many states. But in Texas, it caused an ongoing power outage crisis. After the storm finally passed and temperatures started to rise, many Texans wanted to start recovering and get back to normal. But, as many plumbers know, extended power outages coupled with a quick freeze/thaw cycle brings one thing: burst pipes.

A broken water line flooding a church in Richardson, Texas is just one example of the plumbing issues Texans are facing right now | CREDIT: TONY GUTIERREZ/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

Texas Facing Plumber Shortage

Temporary Regulation Changes - Only A “Band Aid” Solution?

Burst pipes, major leaks, and the many other plumbing related issues that emerged in the wake of the storm have exposed a major statewide workforce shortage. The need for plumbing services has become so overwhelming that Texas Governor Greg Abbott worked with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) (which the state tried to completely abolish in 2019) to create three temporary regulation changes.

  1. The Governor waived regulations for certain qualified Plumber’s Apprentices to allow them to perform plumbing repairs without ‘direct’ supervision by a licensed plumber so long as the qualified Plumber’s Apprentice works under the general supervision of a Responsible Master Plumber.
  2. Plumbers who were previously licensed by the TSBPE but whose licenses have expired for a period longer than 2 years may reinstate for a fee and without the current examination requirement.
  3. The yearly Continuing Education requirement is waived for all licenses and registrations with expiration dates in February, March and April of 2021.

Why Is Texas Struggling To Attract Plumbers?

While these temporary “band aid” measures are in place to get more Texas plumbers working again, many plumbers are arguing that there simply aren’t enough plumbers in Texas to meet demand. 

Chris Taylor, a field manager for Radiant Plumbing in Austin, said demand for plumbers has outpaced the number of available technicians. Radiant is currently receiving triple its normal number of calls per day, and the company has over 2,500 customers awaiting service.

“It’s heartbreaking, really. You’ve got a lot of people, thousands of people, that need help, that are desperate,” Taylor said. “And there’s nothing you can do for a lot of them because of the reality there’s not enough people out there to do the work.”

According to The Texas Tribune, factors like the state’s low minimum wage, a lack of cultural respect for “blue collar industries,” and a focus on college being the only path available after high school is keeping “plumbers from moving to Texas and young people from entering the industry.”

Out-of-State Help Arriving Just In Time

During last week’s storm, Gov. Abbott also signed orders allowing out-of-state plumbers to obtain provisional licenses to work in Texas. According to the Washington Post, Frank Denton, the TSBPE chairman, and his agency have been working long hours to accelerate the approval process for non-Texan plumbers. 

Out-of-state plumbers can submit an application that requires them to provide their licensing information and insurance coverage that meets Texas state standards. Because the demand is so high, the board has been working to process the applications in less than a day, Denton said.

“We are certainly inviting them to come to Texas. That’s for sure,” he said. “As a result, we’re trying to expedite and make it as seamless as possible.”

Good Samaritans From the East

Once this measure was in place, master plumber Andrew Mitchell, his apprentice (and brother-in-law) Isaiah Pinnock, and both of their respective families drove for 25 hours straight from New Jersey to Texas in order to help those in need.

The story about the brothers-in-law has garnered national attention, making plumbers throughout Texas and across state lines offer to send supplies as they run out. Other people who caught wind of their work through social media have offered financial help.

The generosity from others allows Pinnock and Mitchell to better help families who aren’t able to afford the costly repairs needed to restore some order in their lives, Pinnock said.

“A lot of people who go without water is because of financial reasons,” he said. “Yesterday, we went to a subdivision of very small houses and fixed income, and we could not feel right leaving them without running water.”

Pinnock said he and Mitchell coached “handyman uncles” and family members through repairs at about six homes in that neighborhood, leaving without much in their own pockets.

How You Can Help

If you would like to lend your expertise to the residents (and plumbers) in Texas who need all the help they can get, click here

If you know anyone who would like to become a licensed plumber or go from a journeyman to a master so they can go to Texas to help, click here then choose your state.

Or, if you’re unable to travel to Texas and help, here’s a list of charities gathered by Texas Monthly that you can support.

Texas Bill Would Make it Easier to Become a Plumber

The Texas House of Representatives have passed legislation that would eliminate restrictions to entering the plumbing career field.

House Bill 4296 would allow high school students to obtain a tradesman plumber-limited license without paying registration fees or registering as a plumber’s apprentice. They would only have to take the required courses and pass the license test.

The bill also says that anyone who teaches at a career and technical program would not have to pay to renew their licenses and it would waive certain continuing education course fees.

Representative Matt Schaefer, a republican from Smith County, sponsored the bill. In a post on Facebook, Schaefer says the bill would help students and the plumbing industry.

“Not only do they benefit with a rewarding career, the plumbing industry receives much needed talent,” Schaefer wrote. “The bill also allows more experienced plumbers to teach, and alleviates some license-renewal regulations”

Plumbers are in demand in Texas and throughout the country, and the need is growing. Between 2016 and 2026, the job outlook will grow 16%, much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average income of a plumber is $53,910.

The bill was passed in the house in early May and referred to the Business and Commerce committee in the Senate. The Senate did not take any action in committee on May 14.


ATTENTION PLUMBERS AND PLUMBING INSPECTORS

We are looking for instructors and presenters to help us grow our plumbing school. If you are a UPC plumber, have experience working with Fire Sprinkler Systems or have ideas for plumber courses, we want to hear from you. 

Benefits to becoming part of our instructor/presenter team

  • Opportunity to create course materials or simply present materials we have created.
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