Sunday, July 21, 2024

Legislation addresses Louisiana’s plumber shortage

by BIZ Magazine

Bill would expand capabilities of tradesman plumbers

BY: WESLEY MULLERLouisiana Illuminator

A proposal working its way through the Louisiana Legislature is geared to ease the shortage of plumbers in the state, a void expected to grow as the current generation of skilled trade workers retires.

House Bill 753 would loosen regulatory restrictions for plumbers who have yet to attain a master plumber’s license. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Deshotel, R-Marksville, cleared the House Commerce Committee without objection Tuesday and will advance to the House floor for consideration.

Plumbing is a highly regulated occupation in Louisiana with strict requirements and multiple levels of licensure: apprentice, tradesman, journeyman and master. Additional certification is needed for specializations such as medical gas plumbing and water supply protection.

Each level of licensing can take years to complete and requires thousands of hours of on-the-job experience under the watch of a master plumber. Each license also has its own state-issued exam.

“I’m trying to come up with a way that we could get more residential plumbers into the trade,” Deshotel said. “Especially in our rural areas, we are lacking plumbers.”

His bill would allow tradesman plumbers to perform more work independently without direct supervision from a master or journeyman plumber.

At the bottom rung, a plumber’s apprentice must always work directly under a journeyman or master plumber. An apprentice must work for about two years and clock 4,000 hours of experience in order to apply for a tradesman license. Those experience requirements are then doubled for a tradesman to advance to the next level.

Current law allows a tradesman plumber to perform some work without supervision. A tradesman can independently perform repairs of existing plumbing systems in one- and two-family dwellings as long as it’s at the direction of a master plumber.

Deshotel’s bill would expand the scope of capabilities of a tradesman plumber. It would allow a tradesman to independently install, alter and maintain plumbing systems, rather than just repair them, at the direction of a master. It would also rename the license from tradesman plumber to “residential plumber.”

There is a global shortage of licensed plumbers and other skilled trade professions.

In the United States, the Home Builders Institute’s Construction Labor Market Report for spring 2021 found 55% of builders reported plumber shortages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be 42,600 plumber, pipefitter and steamfitter vacancies every year for the next decade.

Similar findings have emerged from Australia, the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. The shortage became particularly prominent during the coronavirus pandemic but began well before as a product of aging populations and a more educated generation entering the workforce.

Generation Z, typically people born between 1997 and 2012, is on track to become the most educated generation, and fewer are opting for manual labor jobs in the skilled trade and technical industries, according to a Pew Charitable Trust report.

Deshotel said he worked with the State Plumbing Board of Louisiana and industry trade associations to draft the proposal in a way they supported.

Ashley Tullier, the state plumbing board’s executive director, said Louisiana created the tradesman plumber license in 2017 and has adopted other changes since then to address the shortage and get more apprentices through the path to full licensure.

There are now roughly 1,800 master plumbers in Louisiana, which Tullier said is a significant increase from a few years ago but didn’t share comparable data.

If Deshotel’s bill becomes law, master plumbing companies will be able to put residential plumbers on basic installation jobs that currently require supervision from a master or journeyman. This would help relieve the shortage, Tullier said.

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