MODESTO -- Applicants are expected to line up around the block this morning for a chance to get good-paying apprenticeship jobs and training to become union plumbers and pipefitters.
The first 94 to apply will be given written tests, and those who score well will have a shot at 20 paid apprenticeships.
The training is free, and the apprentices get jobs that pay more than $16 per hour to start, with raises every six months.
Applications will be distributed at 8 a.m. today, and the test will be given at 10 at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local 442 training center, 4842 Nutcracker Lane, off Kiernan Avenue in northwest Modesto.
The union's more than 400 active members have been "100 percent employed for the last 1½ years," said Greg Vincelet, Local 442's training coordinator. Vincelet said journeyman plumbers earn about $70,000 a year working primarily on commercial construction sites.
"We're trying to get the best apprentices we can," said Vincelet, noting there's plenty of work for plumbers. "We wouldn't be bringing them into the training program if we didn't have jobs for them."
The piping apprenticeship is a five-year program, and participants are paid while they learn. Besides on-the-job training during the day, they are required to attend school two nights a week at the union's Modesto training center.
The union is training 112 apprentices, and the next 20 selected will begin their training in August.
"People don't need to know anything about the trade to get into the apprenticeship program," Vincelet said. He said men and women can apply, as can older workers. "Last year, we brought in two apprentices in their late 40s, and I've noticed the age of applicants has been creeping up."
U.S. military veterans are given bonus points to improve their chances of getting into the program.
Lots of math on tests
Passing the written tests, however, isn't easy. The written exam includes reading comprehension, figure visualization, mechanical ability and basic math.
No calculators are allowed, and the math portion is worth 50 percent of the test score.
Vincelet said the exam is basically eighth-grade-level math, but it requires doing long division, multiplication of fractions and converting percentages to decimals by hand.
"Our industry is really math-heavy," Vincelet explained. "You have to be mechanically inclined to succeed, and the job is pretty physically and mentally demanding."
Applicants must be at least 18 and have graduated from high school or attained a General Education Development certificate.
They must be able to read, write and speak English, be physically able to perform the job, possess a California driver's license and pass pre-employment and random drug tests.
For more details about apprenticeships and today's tests, go to the union's website, www.LU442.com, or call its training center office at (209) 338-0758.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.