California Contractor Becomes Plumbing Education Leader

Hansen's Plumbing is trying to be a plumbing education hub for its California service area

California Contractor Becomes Plumbing Education Leader

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Concerned about a depleted pipeline for the next generation of plumbers and drain cleaners, Cary Hansen for years has thought about using his company, Hansen’s Plumbing & Mechanical in Ventura, California, as an educational launching pad.

That dream became a reality about two years ago when Hansen was certified as a plumbing instructor by the National Center for Construction Education and Research. And about six months ago, he started steering his technicians through a core plumbing curriculum with an emphasis on safety, held during the first half hour of work every Wednesday, he says.

Hansen’s Plumbing is affiliated with the nearby College of the Canyons, sort of like a branch campus, Hansen notes. He credits Lisa Eklund, who owns EP Consulting, a company that promotes careers in the trades through partnerships with businesses, community colleges and high schools, for helping him get the ball rolling.

The ultimate goal: Teach the same curriculum to trades-oriented high school graduates and develop a pipeline of young plumbers.

“I’m doing this in part because there are no local technical schools around here,” Hansen explains. “High schools here don’t even have woodshop classes anymore. Unless you’re in a union, there really isn’t anywhere within a 1- or 2-hour drive from Ventura that does what I’m doing.”

Hansen tries to supplement the curriculum with his own personal experiences, stemming from decades as a plumber. This infuses classes with a practical, real-world feel, he says.

“As for our veteran plumbers, they may know a lot of what I teach, but they don’t know it all,” Hansen points out.

For example, technicians might use slightly different techniques to solder joints, he says. As such, everyone in the class gets different perspectives on various topics.

It will take four years to go through the entire curriculum and Hansen says he might eventually start holding longer classes during evenings or even on Saturdays.

Wasn’t there pushback from employees who feel the mandatory training is redundant, given their experience?

“Not at all,” Hansen says. “In fact, for the first three months, they were coming in a half hour early just to be a part of it.”

One plumber who participates doesn’t even work at the company; he heard about it from a Hansen’s Plumbing technician and asked Hansen if he could join.

“It is a little weird,” Hansen concedes. “I don’t want other companies to think I’m trying to poach their plumbers. But moving forward, I’m going to push for more plumbers from outside our company to take the classes. I want to teach everyone who wants to learn. I’m not worried about helping out the competition. I just think we’re better off training up as many technicians as possible and developing young plumbers for both our company and other companies.”

Read more about Hansen’s Plumbing in the October 2023 issue of Cleaner magazine.


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