History of the Pipefitting Industry Training Center

For more than 70 years, the Pipefitters in the Detroit area have supported and conducted an Apprenticeship Program, recognized by the Department of labor, through the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.  Apprenticeship is and has always been one of the most successful methods of training skilled craftsmen, throughout human history.

In Detroit, Refrigeration Servicemen, Pipefitters, Gasfitters, Welders, and Steamfitters had always been trained in the field by tradesmen themselves and the contractors who employed them.  In 1936 the Pipefitting Industry Apprenticeship Program was started in a one room school in Detroit.  Only Boiler Codes were taught. In 1937, the United Association, one of the most highly respected and influential international building trade unions in the USA and Canada authorized the organization of welders and the refrigeration service fields.  This was also the year that the UA started the first nationally recognized BAT Apprenticeship Program.

By 1940, the Detroit Pipefitting Apprenticeship moved to another school building.  Eventually, all the training for all the building trades took place in this facility.  The Detroit Board of Education has control of the school, although the instructors were, for the most part, tradesmen.  Through 1968, only Steamfitting and Welding were taught at the school.

On August 15, 1975, the Detroit Pipefitting Industry Join Apprenticeship Committee dedicated the 27,000 square foot Pipefitting Industry Training Center, in Troy.  After moving to Troy, the Detroit School Board has no say over the training, and it was completely controlled by the JATC. 

The building was built and has been maintained by the Pipefitting Industry Building Trust Fund.  The United Association has assisted with some furnishings and equipment from the UA-NCA (National Contractors Association) Training Trust Fund.  It was designed and is maintained with the specific task of providing the best in training for the apprentices and journeymen of Steamfitters, Pipefitters, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Service Local Union #636.

In 1968, a refrigeration instructor was hired to begin training apprentices in refrigeration and service work.  This program has developed over the years.  The focus began with work on refrigeration licensing for the City of Detroit.  Next control systems were brought into prominence, during the late 70’s and 80’s. The training manuals published by the United Association were all brought into the program in the 1990’s.  In 1995, large chillers and absorbers were added.  Today the PITC has a fully intergraded service program with HVACR core.  A new 13,000 square foot addition was built onto the training center just for this purpose.

Approximately 30 percent of the building is dedicated to welding procedures.  The latest methods are constantly researched and developed and swiftly incorporated into the apprenticeship and journeyman upgrading programs.  Computer, refrigeration, Direct Digital Control, and Orbital Welding Labs have all been set up to keep the apprentices and journeyman prepared for the ever-changing fields in with they work.

Whether a welder, steamfitter, pipefitter, refrigeration tech, HVAC installer or service tech, apprentice or journeyman, those men and women who are trained at the PITC by the Joint Apprentice Training Committee of Pipefitter’s Local #636 and the Contractors of the Michigan Contractors Association will be well prepared for the exciting and varied careers available in their industry.