“People. Passion. Purpose.” was the theme of PHCCCONNECT2023, which took place Oct. 25-27 in Cleveland. All three were on display throughout the general sessions, trade show, apprentice contest and get-togethers during the three-day convention. But people, passion and purpose were front and center at a special luncheon held on Oct. 25, which featured a panel of women PHCPPros to discuss the tremendous potential for women in the plumbing and heating trades.
“I did a TED talk in 2017, focusing on the lack of women in the trades, where I asked the question, ‘Why,’ ” said panel moderator Susan Frew, co-owner and president, Sunshine Home Services in Denver and founding advisor of the Women in Plumbing & Piping organization. “All these years later, it’s still the same; the numbers really haven’t changed, but we’re working on it.
Frew, however, added that her plumbing business has had more female plumbers and HVAC techs apply for work in the last year or two.
“So I think we are really starting to get somewhere,” she said.
Joining Frew on the panel were Lara Beltz, co-owner, Beltz Home Service Co., Findlay, Ohio; Linda Hudek, owner, LH Plumbing Services; Fairfield, Ohio; Ashley Martin, executive vice president, NIBCO, Elkhart, Ind.; Cassie Pound, co-owner of Quality Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Tulsa, Okla. and the co-host of the Power Women of the Trades podcast; Angie Snow, principal industry advisor, ServiceTitan, Los Angeles; and Jacquelyn Lindsey Wynn, senior consultant, Lindsey Brothers, Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va. (which is our current Plumbing Contractor of the Year.)
The wide-ranging conversation covered topics such as recognizing barriers, adopting new practices, and finding ways to make individual organizations and the overall industry more welcoming to all.
All panelists agreed that a great way to get the word out about a career in the skilled trades is to partner with local learning institutions from grade schools on up to trade schools.
“We need to actually take our companies into the local schools,” Hudek said. “Teachers are usually more than willing to welcome speakers in. And when you go, bring your tools and toilets — the kids love it when you do that. This is a great way to truly get them engaged.”
Beltz added that when she was growing up, nobody other told her that the trades were for women.
“It’s our responsibility to be the ones who say that to students,” Beltz explained. “By talking to elementary, middle, and high school kids, we’re helping to plant the seeds of change at a young age.”
Beltz knew of what she said. Her grandfather owned a heating and cooling business, yet no one ever told her she could take it over.
“Eventually, he died, and then the business completely died,” Beltz said. “Had someone said something to me when I was a child, maybe that business would still be running today.”
One of our favorite events at PHCCCONNECT is the Plumbing and HVAC Apprentice Contests that takes place adjacent to the trade show, offering attendees a great chance to see the next generation of tradespeople engage in the competition.
A total of 21 plumbing and 11 HVAC apprentices from across the U.S. competed for top honors.
The plumbing apprentices were required to rough in a bathroom system. The setup included a toilet, sink and shower, complete with supply, waste and vent lines, plus cleanouts and extra features designed to test the contestants’ knowledge and skills. The test included a variety of pipe materials—cast iron, copper and PVC and corresponding joining methods.
The HVAC competitors were required to complete a written test, demonstrate proper brazing techniques and perform a hands-on diagnostic on an HVAC package unit, with system errors created by the foundation’s contractor volunteers for the competition. The competitors also had to perform a pressure and leak test, demonstrate proper refrigerant recovery procedures and the ability to accurately take a variety of instrument readings.
This year, the Plumbing Apprentice Contest winner was Cody McDonald, Van Contracting, Inc., Columbia City, Ind. Second place went to Nick Vasknetz, Local 525 in Las Vegas with Joseph Hardin of Local 333, Lansing, Mich., taking third place.
Jacob Lee, P1 Service, Lenexa, Kan., won first place in the HVAC Apprentice Contest. A.J. Posivak, Deluxe Plumbing & Heating, Bethlehem, Pa. took second and Raulie Rojas, Midwestern Mechanical, Rapid City, S.D. took third.
In other apprenticeship news, Tyler Paul received the PHCC’s 2023 HVAC Apprentice of the Year Award. As was announced during the awards ceremony, Paul – who completed his HVAC apprenticeship through the PHCC Academy in May and works for BION Inc., Prince William County, Virginia—“takes his work and learning of our trade seriously. His job is not just a job to him, but a career. It is obvious that making a positive difference to the facilities and crews that he supports is important to him.”
BION must be doing something right since Paul’s colleague, Anthony Graham was named the PHCC’s 2023 Plumbing Apprentice of the Year. Graham’s path into the plumbing field was inspired by his cousin’s apprenticeship in electrical work. Witnessing the fulfillment, growth and earning potential that came with the trade resonated deeply with him. This led him to choose an apprenticeship over a college education, aligning with his desire to support his family. He completed his apprenticeship—via the PHCC Academy online program—last May.
Graham has been to past PHCCCONNECTs, too, since he participated in PHCC of Virginia’s 2022 Plumbing Apprentice Competition and represented Virginia at the PHCC Educational Foundation’s National Plumbing Apprentice Contest that same year. In 2019, he participated as a fourth-year HVAC apprentice in the foundation’s HVAC Apprentice Contest.
In other “next generation” news, scholarships totaling $190,000 were announced by the PHCC Educational Foundation and PHCC National Auxiliary at CONNECT. The auxiliary awarded 14 scholarships totaling $51,000. The foundation awarded $139,000 to 57 plumbing and HVAC apprentices, trade school students, and college students pursuing studies directly related to the PHCP industry.
During CONNECT2023, attendees donated to the foundation’s Invest in Your Future campaign, pushing the annual total raised past $257,000. Matching funds from InSinkErator, Ferguson, NIBCO and SupplyHouse.com, plus A.O. Smith, Bradford White, Federated Insurance, Rheem, and Scorpion Home Services, helped to boost the fundraising total to this level.
Best of the Best
Another perennial show highlight is the 2023 PHCC Awards Luncheon to honor the best of the best within the PHCP community:
Scott Award: The association’s highest honor—the Col. George D. Scott Award—went to Kevin Tindall, Tindall & Ranson, Windsor, N.J. A past PHCC—National president and the current chairman of the PHCC Educational Foundation, Tindall has been paying his appreciation for PHCC forward for nearly two decades with selfless service to the association, the industry, his community, and future generations.
Within PHCC, Tindall believes in building up the next generation, serving as a huge contributor to the foundation’s online apprenticeship program offered through PHCC of New Jersey and many other states. With Tindall’s support, PHCC of New Jersey has run its online program—PHCC Academy – for eight years; it has become the chapter’s biggest source of non-dues revenue and has helped countless apprentices who previously were unable to find a school in their area. As the academy grew in New Jersey, Tindall supported the creation of the foundation’s Apprenticeship Advisory Board, which helps maintain the PHCC Academy at the national level. He also has volunteered at the SkillsUSA Championships and the foundation’s national apprentice contests.
Beyond PHCC, Tindall has made an indelible impact on the industry. He has been an important part of the New Jersey NSPC coalition, fighting hard for the contractors to keep the state’s plumbing code. He also served on the IAPMO C.A.U.S.E. committee in 2010 and 2011, and in 2012 was named IAPMO’s Sustainable Professional of the Year. Tindall’s work extends beyond our borders as well, serving as a World Plumbing Council member from 2019 to 2023.
Closer to home, Tindall has served PHCC of New Jersey on a host of committees as well as on its board, including as its current president. Within his community, he is a life member of the Volunteer Firemen for West Windsor. In 2013, he received PHCC’s Larry M. Cox Award for his efforts in his community after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The day after the storm, Tindall and his family jumped into action to secure necessary items, including 10 Port-a-Potts, fresh water, socks, and food for first responders. His community knew they could turn to their “contractor neighbor” to provide the supplies, support, and knowledge they needed.
Plumbing Contractors of the Year: Brothers Rob and Tony Bertolino, owners, Bertolino Plumbing & Heating, Virginia Beach, Va., were named PHCC’s Plumbing Contractors of the Year.
For Rob and Tony, commitment to resolving plumbing issues efficiently and cost-effectively was ingrained at an early age, when the brothers worked with their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather in plumbing up and down the East Coast.
Among their staff, Rob and Tony foster a culture of continuous learning and growth, and they actively encourage employees to expand their skill sets and participate in leadership programs. They are engaged in recruiting and training the future workforce as well; Tony is an instructor at the Norfolk Technical Center and was instrumental in creating PHCC of Virginia’s Future Leaders program to nurture the next generation of industry leaders.
HVAC Contractor of the Year: Danny Reddick, president, Reddick & Sons Manassas, Va., was named PHCC’s HVAC Contractor of the Year.
Under Reddick’s leadership, his company places a strong emphasis on staff training inside its own dedicated 10,000-square-foot facility.
The company also employs innovative management techniques as well as time-saving procedures such as bar coding of parts, electronic dispatching of technicians, shop prefabrication, and other methods that increase productivity while increasing customer satisfaction and job quality.
Plumbing Instructor of the Year: Tim Rutledge, an instructor at the PHCC-GSA Training Facility, Sacramento, Calif., was named the PHCC’s Plumbing Instructor of the Year.
Growing up in a family that has owned multiple plumbing companies over several decades, Rutledge’s experience comes from years of working in multiple facets of the industry.
For the past six years, he has served as a PHCC plumbing instructor (teaching years 1 through 4), motivating his students, both past and present, with his “can-do attitude, creativity, and sense of humor,” claims Theresa Perez, an administrator at the PHCC facility who nominated Rutledge.
That creativity has shone in multiple ways, especially via Rutledge’s learning lab buildout, which comprises a mock house and a trenching box, both of which he constructed to give students hands-on opportunities that more closely resembled situations found in the field or on a job site.
The model home has a working Bluetooth shower, dishwasher, water heater, bathtub, and more, and is also elevated to create a crawl space for his students to work on drains and venting. The trench box gives students the opportunity to dig through dirt to lay pipe and learn slope and grade.
And, to help students solidify their own learning as well as provide an alternate approach to students struggling with a particular concept, Rutledge empowers students to instruct each other; this peer-to-peer method also reinforces teamwork, a necessity on a job site.
HVAC Instructor of the Year: Brian Millard of the PHCC of Iowa Apprenticeship Program was named the PHCC’s HVAC Instructor of the Year
With a deep understanding and expertise in the HVAC trade, Millard is known for sharing his valuable blend of both theoretical concepts and practical skills with his apprentices.
As part of creating that environment, Millard is known for turning to field trips, hosting guest speakers, and developing “memorable hands-on labs” to help his students grasp concepts and maximize their academic journey.
His passion for the industry also translates into his expectations for professionalism, both from himself and from his students. His goal to deliver the best information and to be the best instructor serves as a catalyst for students to not only understand HVAC concepts but to demonstrate the overall need for professionalism.
Let’s let our last words for PHCCCONNECT2023, also be the first words for PHCCCONNECT2024, which will be held Oct. 7-9, in Birmingham, Ala. l