Pipefitter and Steamfitter Apprenticeship

Pipefitters and Steamfitters are some of the highest-paid construction jobs, and also less affected by fluctuating economic conditions. Both trades involve the installation and maintenance of piping systems. This includes the preparation of piping layouts, steel fabrication (or whatever material is used to make the pipes), and pipe assembly & installation. Pipefitters and Steamfitters are also needed to repair and maintain these systems.

Pipefitters and Steamfitters work in all aspects of the heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and temperature control fields. We are also employed at oil refineries, chemical plants, food processing facilities, manufacturing plants, retail and wholesale food stores, and ice rinks.

Pipefitters and Steamfitters may be commonly grouped together, but each represents a specialized occupation. The primary difference is in the material transported through the pipe systems. Pipefitters work with both low-pressure and high-pressure systems that are used in heating and cooling; manufacturing; and electricity generation. Steamfitters specialize in liquids and gases that are under high-pressure. Their work can be more dangerous than a Pipefitter at times, such as when working with high-pressure gas.

Pipefitter and Steamfitter Job Descriptions

Both jobs require working in high places and enclosed spaces, climbing, bending, stooping, crawling, kneeling, lifting, and working in extreme temperature ranges. There is a lot of heavy lifting and both indoor & and outdoor work, often in confined spaces. The work includes layout, fabrication, assembly, installation, and the maintenance of piping and piping systems, appurtenances, and equipment for steam, hot water, heating, cooling, lubricating, and industrial processing systems, on the basis of knowledge or system operation and study of building plans or working drawings.  Pipefitters select type and size of pipe and related materials according to job specifications. Because Pipefitters and Steamfitters must cut or drill holes in walls for the passage of pipes, advanced welding skills are part of this apprenticeship.

Pipefitters also plan the sequence of installation to avoid obstructions and activities of other construction workers.  Pipefitters may be required to do the following: cut pipe, use a threading machine, assemble and install a variety of metal and nonmetal pipe and pipe fittings, including those made of brass, copper, lead, glass and plastic. They secure pipes to structures with clamps, brackets, and hangers using hand tools. They also install and maintain refrigeration and air-conditioning systems including compressors, pumps, meters, pneumatic and hydraulic controls, and piping. Pipefitters must have a working knowledge of building and mechanical codes and may weld pipe supports to structural steel members.

Steamfitters install, maintain, and repair high and low pressure steam systems, high and low pressure hot water systems, snow melting systems, refrigeration systems, heating, gas and oil piping, pneumatic, electronic controls, air conditioning and also provide instrumentation and valve repair.   These skills are used working in residential, commercial, and industrial installations. These systems are installed in all types of weather conditions.

Pipefitters and Steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints or other design specifications to install or repair hot water or steam systems
  • Rigging of pipe fabrications,  and other components
  • Install piping  and controls and test for proper operation
  • Inspect and maintain High Pressure Piping and hydronic systems
  • Test individual components to determine necessary repairs
  • Repair or replace worn or defective parts

Pipefitter Apprenticeship Program

Apprentices receiving no credit for job-related experience or schooling shall serve Nine thousand (9,000) hours of work experience or five (5) years of reasonably continuous work experience. During each year of apprenticeship, each Apprentice Shall complete no less than 144 hours of related technical instruction. The first two years of Apprenticeship Training will be day school consisting of 8 hour days for 5 weeks throughout the year. The remainder of the training will be evening classes.

It is understood that time served in probationary status is included within the 9,000-hour program requirement. In no case shall be less than 2,000 hours, or more than 9,000 hours. In no case shall an Apprentice be allowed to change place of employment without the approval of the Committee. Upon completion of the required training hours and class hours the Apprentice must also pass two of the following: a High Pressure Piping State Exam, Minnesota Plumbing Exam, UA Pipefitter Star Exam, or the JATC Welding Certification.

An Apprentice being advanced to Journeyman ahead of this training schedule must have the approval of the Committee.

Steamfitter Apprentice