Read this article as it originally appeared on ROI-NJ July 13, 2020.
When Carl Carbone starting teaching at Morris County School of Technology four years ago, plumbing was a half-day program with only seven students, and it was being considered for elimination.
Today, that same plumbing program runs two half-day sections and has a waiting list. This year, 11 students graduated and 10 of them have found work as paid apprentices in the plumbing field.
“The students who graduated this year had no problems landing jobs,” Carbone said.
Plumbing and pipefitting is a high-demand career right now and will likely remain in demand for the foreseeable future. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of plumbing jobs is expected to grow 14%, much faster than average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
New Jersey is among the highest-paying states for plumbers, with an average annual salary of $74,360.
“This is an ideal program for a student who can’t sit in a classroom all day, but is really a hands-on learner,” Carbone said. “Plumbing students also need good problem-solving and analytical skills, as well as logical reasoning, to understand complex plumbing and heating systems and diagnose how to fix them when something goes wrong.”
Morris County School of Technology’s plumbing and pipefitting program is part of its shared-time career and technical education offerings, which also include the other construction trades as well as allied health, auto body, cosmetology, culinary arts and hospitality, cybersecurity and information protection, engineering technology, exercise science, and building and grounds maintenance. Students enter the programs in their junior year of high school.
Students who graduate from the plumbing program typically go to work as a paid apprentices with either a union or a licensed master plumber. During their four-year apprenticeship, they are also attending school at night to fulfill the required 150 hours per year of related classroom instruction.
In addition to installing and repairing residential fixtures, plumbers design and install piping systems and connect heating and cooling systems. The required classroom training reinforces on-the-job learning to ensure that plumbing apprentices are knowledgeable about water distribution, blueprint reading, local ordinances and regulations, mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, welding and soldering.
Carbone said his students who graduated from the high school program will have a leg up in developing these essential skills.
During their fifth year on the job, the new plumbers are considered journeymen. Once they complete their journeyman year, they can take the test to be licensed as a master plumber.
“Once they get their master plumber’s license, they can start their own business, which is a goal for many of our students,” Carbone said.
Carbone started working as a plumber at his family-owned business, which his father started in 1977. He also got a plumbing inspector’s license, which allowed him to work as a construction official in Hackensack and, later, in West Orange.
He taught part-time in the Morris County Vocational School District’s adult education program when he was asked if he wanted the job of teaching full-time as a high school plumbing instructor.
Carbone said he jumped at the opportunity to teach the next generation of plumbers about his trade. Students say their teacher’s passion for plumbing was evident every day in the classroom.
“I loved the program because of my classmates and an amazing teacher,” said Michael Kreitz, 18, of Lincoln Park, who graduated this year. “I feel that my education was second to none. I truly feel that thanks to my education at MCST I will excel in my field.”
Kreitz, who also attended Boonton High School for part of the day, said he first got interested in plumbing when he shadowed a friend who was enrolled at Morris County School of Technology.
“I always wanted to have a hands-on job. Plumbing wasn’t something I thought of at first, but I’m happy I tried it out,” Kreitz said. “What I like most about plumbing is that every job is different and exciting. It was also less book work than regular school and I actually learned useful things thanks to the hands-on nature of the field.”
Kreitz graduated from the program this spring and landed a job with his teacher, who continues to operate his company, Carl Carbone Jr. Plumbing and Heating, during the summer months.
“I started off working as a trial, but still made $11 per hour, but now that I’m full-time and, with a little more experience and time under my belt, my paycheck will go up,” said Kreitz, who added that his five-year plan is to work, save money and “take things slow.”
“Within those five years, I hope to have my plumber’s license and a business degree,” Kreitz said. “My life goal is just to be happy and not live paycheck to paycheck. That’s all I need in life.”