Teaching plumbing skills to a hungry workforce

As the East Bay Municipal Utility District workforce transitions over the next few years with many older workers giving way to a new generation of utility employees, the District has joined forces with Laney College in Oakland to increase opportunities for some local residents to acquire or hone the skills necessary to join the plumbing ranks here or elsewhere.

Last year, 198 people applied for the 20-week Waterways Plumber Training Program, which provides hands-on plumber training and fundamental math and critical thinking skills, while exposing students to the workings of the civil service process. Of 28 graduates, one was hired by EBMUD. Graduates benefit from improving their life skills and are better prepared to take their place in the workforce.

“Waterways gives students a chance at a chance,” says Beth Maher, Laney College program coordinator. “We’re happy to offer this training now, when it is needed most.” EBMUD and Laney reached out to community groups, youth centers, women in trades and veterans’ organizations to invite broad participation in the program.

“This course gives men and women in EBMUD’s footprint a shot at improving their lives,” says William B. Patterson, member of EBMUD Board of Directors, “We have people in our own backyard who need help in building jobs skills. We hope to equip the best and most ambitious of these students by providing training that can put them in a better position to compete for future jobs and lead them to a meaningful career in civil service.”

This year, 256 people applied and 15 dedicated students will graduate on Friday, March 23, at a celebration scheduled for 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at EBMUD offices at 375 Eleventh Street in Oakland.