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1000s Camp Out in NYC for Chance to become Plumbers Union Apprentice


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Hundreds of young men camped out on the streets of New York City last weekend waiting for applications to the Plumbers Union Apprenticeship Program in Queens. The applications were distributed on Monday morning to the first 1,000 people in line. The immense popularity of the program meant not everyone could get their hands on one:

Signs on the training center tell applicants not to camp out, but if they listen, they don’t really have a shot, like Mauricio Cruz who showed up Sundayafternoon. 

“I walked up, added every chair and three for every tent and came out to 1,226,” Cruz said. “I know I’m after that. It’s insane. I don’t know if I’m gonna wait.”

But once you’re in, you get your shot. It’s a an application process that mirrors the brotherhood, in that regard:

‘There is no difference between having application #1 or application #1000. All applications are equal in the process.’

And the precious application materials only signal the beginning of the process. Aspiring plumbers still need to complete tests and interviews afterwards.

It’s easy to see why the jobs are so sought after. The pay is strong and the plumbing sector is expecting major growth:

The applicants may be on to something. According to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was $50,620. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to enter the field. And the growth outlook is good, with 12 percent growth projected from 2014-2024.

Competitiveness is one way the union keeps the quality of their members high. Only a fraction of applicants land an apprenticeship after interviews and testing.


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