Two trades in one course equals more job opportunities, says Holland College

After it was put on hold for a year, the pipefitting program is back at Holland College — but will now be combined with plumbing.

Pipefitting brought back as part of plumbing course

Holland College student Tiana Vandenberghe works on the skills she's learning in the plumbing program at the Georgetown Centre. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

After it was put on hold for a year, the pipefitting program is back at Holland College — but will now be combined with plumbing.

Mark McQuaid, a plumbing and pipefitting instructor for Holland College Georgetown Centre, said it made sense to combine the courses because 70 or 80 per cent of the material is the same in the first year.

"What we did was just take what was missing out of both, combine it together and put it into an eight-month course," he said.

The pipefitting/steamfitting program had been put on hiatus because of low enrolment numbers and poor job prospects.

"Here in the local industry there's not as much demand as there is for central Canada and western Canada," said Paul Murnaghan, program manager for Georgetown Centre.

College officials say plumbers are more in demand on P.E.I. but pipefitters are sought after in central Canada and out west. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The combined course will be offered starting in September at the college's Georgetown campus.

"Some of our students are very young and they're not sure really what field they'd like to be in and this gives them the opportunity to pursue two at the same time," said Preston Dockendorff, plumbing instructor at Holland College for 16 years.

It gives them more opportunity for work, that's what it's all about, right?— Mark McQuaid

"They're very closely related — pipe is pipe, right?"

McQuaid is a Red Seal in both plumbing and pipefitting and understands the benefits.

"That has helped me tremendously in job opportunities, I can work as a plumber or as a pipefitter," he said.

The college has set a target of 24 students for the combined program.

"It gives them more opportunity for work, that's what it's all about, right?" McQuaid said.

"You want to take a course, you want to be able to get employment when it's over and that's what we are offering is two trades in one."

Instructor Mark McQuaid, a Red Seal in both plumbing and pipefitting, says the new course will improve job prospects for students. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Student Giacomo Mandarano from Toronto is excited about the new combination.

"I think it's fantastic, it gives us greater opportunities," he said.

"Just to broaden my horizons, get greater knowledge and keep my options open just in case plumbing doesn't work out."

After their first eight months in the program, students will choose plumbing or pipefitting and start getting apprenticeship hours in their chosen field before returning to the college for two more blocks of training. 

They can eventually write a Red Seal exam. There is also the option of getting a second Red Seal later in the other field.

"The students around here now are under the old program so some of them are a little jealous," Dockendorff said.

About the Author

Nancy Russell

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca