The following article, written by Jeremy Allen, appeared August 7, 2014 on MLive. Read below or view the article on the MLive website

When the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Welders and HVACR Technicians (the UA) comes to Washtenaw County for its 25th Annual week-long Instructor Training Program this week, it won’t be the group’s final trip to the area.

According to Washtenaw Community College – the host site of the annual program – the UA plans to sign a 15-year contract extension to extend its relationship with the college through the year 2029.

Every August since 1990, the partnership brings instructors of the skilled trades – including welders, plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians – together from across the world to train their peers in the most contemporary skillsets for the next wave of skilled trades workers.

The contract signing will take place during an Aug. 13 at the Morris Lawrence Building on the WCC campus — in the middle of the Aug. 9-15 program.

Several WCC, UA and elected officials will attend the ceremony, including WCC President Rose Bellanca, UA General President William Hite, Congressman John Dingell, and Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President & CEO Mary Kerr.

“We could not be more proud of this milestone anniversary and contract extension. Because of our partnership with the UA, literally thousands of instructors have taught other instructors the latest in teaching techniques and technologies using our state-of-the-art facilities,” Bellanca said in a statement.

“By hosting this Instructor Training program – we each play a vital role in training workers with the skills that employers are demanding. The goal is to connect ready-to-work employees with ready-to-be-filled jobs.”

Chris Haslinger, the director of training for the UA, has been heading the training for three years and has been coming to the local training for nearly a decade.

Haslinger said that there are several reasons the organization decided to extend its working relationship with WCC and the Ann Arbor community.

“We first came here in 1990 and have been running our annual training program since. Over that time we’ve developed a great working relationship with WCC. We’ve been able to enhance our training programs and it’s just worked out very well,” he said.

“We decided to go ahead and move forward with another 15 years here because of our strong relationship with the college, the support we get from the Ann Arbor community while we’re here, and the fact that we also run classes in the area – about two or three a month – so we have a lot of things going locally there.”

Wednesday’s ceremony will also highlight the commissioning of WCC’s first combined cooling, heat and power system system, which will save an estimated $60,000 in utility costs per year.

The CCHP system was designed and built by GEM Energy, of Walbridge, Ohio. GEM Energy also is donating a micro-turbine to train future energy professionals in the college’s UA Great Lakes Regional Training Center.

The WCC-UA partnership has produced thousands of certified and internationally recognized instructors in the piping industry, UA officials said.

In addition WCC’s benefits from the extended partnership, the Ann Arbor economy will also benefit.

Kerr said the AAACVB estimates that the program brings about $5 million to the Ann Arbor area each year, as more than 1,900 people come into town for the program. The most direct impact is with restaurants, hotels, and retailers, transportation, and entertainment markets.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership and friendship with the UA,” she said in a statement. “For 25 years, we have welcomed the opportunity to host UA members and are thrilled to celebrate with them the long-term renewal.”

Hite added that the relationship between the organization he presides over, WCC and the city of Ann Arbor has always been a good one, and that he’s looking forward to continued growth in the future.

“Their commitment to our program has allowed us to train instructors in new and innovative ways, thus allowing those instructors to return home better prepared to teach new generations of high skilled piping professionals,” Hite said in a statement.

“We look forward to a continuing successful relationship in the years ahead. We are proud to call Washtenaw Community College our home.”