The following article was published in June 2017 in the Indian Plumping Today (IPT), the official monthly publication of the Indian Plumbing Association (IPA). The magazine has been reaching IPA and Indian construction industry members since 2002.
Kohler Plumbing Academy Graduates Find Opportunity, Job Satisfaction
Since the India Plumbing Association (IPA), the International Association of Plumbers and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), and Kohler India opened the doors of the Kohler Plumbing Academy 20 months ago, 159 plumbers have graduated and entered the workforce.The two-month program provides comprehensive training on plumbing piping and fixture installation and repair, site surveys, plumbing codes, and general mechanical skills. Graduates receive accreditation from both IPA and IAPMO, giving them immediate industry credibility and career opportunities with employers in the construction industry.
The plumbing program offers two degrees, Trained Apprentice Plumber and Trained Master Plumber, but it provides far more than the skill to install and fix bathroom fixtures. In addition to hands-on plumbing training, the academy provides students with the business and interpersonal skills needed to work successfully with coworkers and customers. Finance courses teach students the needed skills to start their own independent plumbing business, computer skills help them apply for positions and fulfill the administrative aspects of the job, and English courses prepare them to better communicate with customers on job sites or in private homes.
Many graduates find positions with local contractors, a few choose to work abroad, and several have been hired to work as service technicians for Kohler.“There was a lot of learning on the job, and I am being paid to learn,” said program graduate and technician Muhammed Imran. “After I work with customers, they see us as plumbers who are also Kohler technicians who can find the problem and solve it. I’m proud to be respected by my clients.”
Imran, who heard about the program from a friend and applied after passing the 12th grade, admits he wasn’t very dedicated to his studies before joining the Kohler Plumbing Academy.
“Now I have a sense of responsibility, and I earn a handsome salary to take care of myself and help my parents,” Imran said. “That makes them happy and proud.”
Sanjeet Parit was working on his family’s small farm and was very poor when he heard about the program. Now he also works as part of the technical service team for Kohler.
“I feel empowered with a skill to better my life,” Parit said. He appreciates the mutual respect shared among the technical service team and enjoys the challenge of diagnosing a plumbing problem for a customer.
Plumbing instructor Debidutta Bhuyan formerly worked as a tradesman for 10 years in the Caribbean and brings experience in hotel construction.
“I am teaching the students to install plumbing fixtures and pipes and get home bathrooms working again,” he said. “Piping systems in new construction must be installed at the proper height to meet code requirements. Because many of the students have used only Indian (squat) toilets, they have to learn to properly install Western-style toilets.”Damayanti Bhowmik is the head of operations for 10 skilled trades training programs in the Delhi area, which includes the Kohler Plumbing Academy and electrical and automotive programs in Gurgaon.
“All of the students, no matter what skilled program they are in, spend several hours a day learning computers, soft skills and English, which helps them with job interviews and the communication skills they will need on the job,” she said. “The program runs for two months for eight hours a day, which is a short time to learn a full course of training, but this format holds their attention and they get the rest of their training on the job. The program is focused and strict, and students know there are high expectations for their learning.”
Kohler has been impressed with the graduates it has hired from the program and the brand visibility the program has provided.“The program serves the entire plumbing industry and also is good for the KOHLER brand,” said Antony Antly, manager for Kohler Tech Support. “Having a strong local reputation helps Kohler secure contracts for area construction projects, which is our ultimate goal.”
The program’s students are a mix of young adults seeking to move on from minimum wage jobs, high school dropouts and people from rural areas with few long-term career prospects. They range in age from 18 to 22 years old and come from 6 states in northern India. Students who live too far from the academy for daily travel stay in area hostels.The program is part of the Plumbing Education to Employment Programme, begun several years ago by IPA and IAPMO to increase the number of trained plumbers in India. It is aimed at providing underprivileged youth access to better job opportunities as well as addressing the scarcity of certified professionals in the plumbing industry, which is key to improving sanitation, living conditions, and health and hygiene in India.