Washburn Institute of Technology is always looking for ways to help the community. The institution started the fall semester with 22 students in the new Plumbing Technology program. This program will help with the decline in plumbers, give students a job as soon as they are done with the program, and also complete their technical certificate offerings for the community.
“There’s a tremendous need in our community. There are at least 53 different companies that were looking for plumbers,” said Mike Strohschein, dean of Washburn Tech.
With their affiliation with Washburn University, students can advance in other degrees as well.
For a new program to start at Washburn Tech, there must be an advisory board and a critical need in the community with their support. The institution worked with Pat Grogan, Licensed Master Plumber and owner of Topeka business Pat the Plumber. Grogan helped the institution with creating the plumbing program advisory board by giving “a generous five-year donation,” said Stroschien. Washburn Tech also partnered with Ferguson, a national plumbing company, that donated $25,000 to help launch the plumbing program.
“We’re very thankful that we were able to […] have the sponsorship and support the community,” said Strohschein.
There are several scholarships offered for this tiered-technical program, including the Excel CTE and the Braden scholarship for high school students.
For adults, the Promise Scholarship is a legislation that came out a year ago. It is for adults that do not currently have a college degree, and they can also get their loans forgiven when they work two or three years in Kansas.
There are many other scholarship opportunities for both adults and post-secondary students, and according to Strohschein, “Money shouldn’t be an issue because there are significant dollars invested for this program.”
All programs at Washburn Tech are either high school, high demand or high wage; the plumbing program is all three. It is also very hands-on.
This apprenticeship-based program is 30 credit hours, which means that students will be working with companies to learn the customer service side of their career. This will also help the students gain trust in the industry and receive real-life training outside of class. While taking this program, students will be doing a large amount of math and 80% of classes will be labs.
“This program is going to give these kids that opportunity to have the basic knowledge to what they need to know when they graduate, and it is going to make them more valuable,” said Quentin Ouelette, technical plumbing instructor.
There are different codes involved in plumbing in the real world; this program teaches the international plumbing code, residential plumbing, reading and how to follow codes, technical reading and writing and how to do a lot of troubleshooting.
Washburn Tech is giving the students in this program hands-on training while in class and off campus. When students graduate from this program, they are likely to start off with jobs that pay $16-20 hourly wages. According to Strohschein, most students that successfully finish the program are landing careers that pay annual wages of $50,000 or more upon completion. This gives students the opportunity to earn high, livable wages with room to grow in the industry.
Edited by: Alijah McCracken, Justin Shepard
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