A new class offered at the Ogallala campus of Mid-Plains Community College aims to address a shortage of plumbers in west central Nebraska.

“There’s a real need in Keith County and surrounding counties for skilled plumbers,” Ogallala campus coordinator Mary Pierce said. “MPCC is trying to meet that need.”

Bill McMillan, founder of McMillan Plumbing in Ogallala, will serve as the instructor for the course, which is scheduled Aug. 27-Oct. 17.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for plumbers in 2017 was $25.28 per hour, or approximately $52,590 per year.

There were 480,600 plumbing jobs in the U.S. last year, and that number is expected to increase 16% by 2026 – much faster than the average for all other occupations.

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“I started my plumbing company in 1991, and over the years, the biggest problem I had was getting qualified employees,” McMillan said. “There just wasn’t anyone who wanted to learn the business. It’s happening in other places, too. I think it’s mainly an image issue. When people think of plumbers, all they picture is Roto-Rooting sewer lines.”

To him, the profession is so much more. He’s excited about the opportunity to train a new generation of plumbers and to help provide public contractors with a source for employees.

“I see plumbing as a creative type of work,” McMillan said. “When we install plumbing, we design it ourselves, and that’s very fulfilling. There’s also a lot of variety to the job. Every day is totally different. One day, we might be putting tubs in a motel and the next fixing a faucet. Not to mention, plumbers can go virtually anywhere in the world and find work.”

His class will be hands-on and include a variety of fieldwork. It will prepare students to take the Nebraska Journeyman Plumber Exam. Upon successful completion of the test, students would be qualified to work under a master plumber as an apprentice.

McMillan said the knowledge needed to be a plumber has changed dramatically because of new technology. While it’s not easy to pass the state test and get a license, McMillan believes the class could be a definite advantage.

“People who have gone through a course like this are also more marketable than those who haven’t,” said McMillan. “Employers typically pay more for those they don’t have to train.”

The class will be offered in Ogallala from 4-6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Registrations will be accepted throughout the first week of the class, or until the limit of 12 students is reached.

There is a $499 fee. Financial assistance may be available for those who qualify through the GAP program.

More information is available by calling Pierce at (308) 284-9830 or emailing piercem@mpcc.edu.