By JIM HEDEMARK
Special to The Stand
SPOKANE (Sept. 4, 2015) — A caption in the print edition of last week’s Spokesman-Review article, “Spokane plumber wins international trade contest,” didn’t quite get it right that Mike Harris spent 64 hours to complete one copper project. So naturally, his fellow union apprentices, trainers, co-workers and a few friends gave him a hard time about the misprint.
“Mike is a great deal more efficient than the caption suggests, but we had fun with him anyway,” said George Renner II, one of Harris’ employers at the Spokane firm of Mackin & Little Mechanical in Spokane. “Mike is a confident young man with the skills, work ethic and knowledge to back up his confidence. Mike works extremely hard at honing his skills every day on the job site and in the classroom. He is very deserving of his numerous awards! We are proud to have him as part of the Mackin & Little family.”
The Spokesman-Review article described how Harris (right), a 33-year-old third-year Plumber Apprentice with Spokane’s Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, UA Local 44, spent 64 hours completing multiple projects over five days in a grueling UA international competition in Ann Arbor, Mich., between Aug. 8-13 before he received the union’s “Best Copper Project for 2015.”
“This is like the ‘Final Four’ competition for apprentices in the Building Trades,” said Brett Wideman, Director of Training for UA Local 44. “Spokane’s own Mike Harris was in the top 35 of our union’s 40,000 apprentices worldwide and he brought home an international honor.”
Harris’ path to the Plumbers Apprentice top competition began earlier this year when he won the local Spokane competition on March 28. He then won the Washington state competition on May 6, which qualified him to compete in the UA Regional competition representing 12 western states on June 11.
As the UA Western States District 5 champion, Harris flew to Ann Arbor and competed Aug. 8-13. The Plumbers competition involved timed projects such as the Copper Project for which Harris earned his international award. To win, Harris had to interpret dimensions from a drawing and join copper together through various intricate methods and mathematics, resulting in the best final project as determined by expert judges.
Wideman and Local 44 Business Manager Pat Perez flew to Ann Arbor to watch the finals and root for their apprentice and fellow union member.
“Mike has been a champion ever since he walked in our doors and enrolled in our apprentice program,” Perez said. “For the past three years, he has committed himself to the trade. All of Spokane and the Evergreen State can take great pride, knowing that this young man’s skills and attitude are second to none.”
Harris, who applied to the UA Local 44 Apprenticeship Program for three years before being accepted, said, “I knew that I wanted to learn a highly skilled trade and join the family of brothers and sisters who understand that family wages, health care, and supportive employers provide a chance for a young family to grow with confidence and give back to our community.”
UA Local 44 President Mike Foley said, “I have every confidence that Mike Harris will complete our program. We want him in Spokane for the rest of his life, but if he and his wife and son ever decide to move, he’ll have a highly transportable and desirable skill anywhere in the world.”
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and the Spokane City Council presented Mike Harris with a salutation (presentation begins at 5:00 on the video) on Aug. 24.
“Mike and his apprentice colleagues are the future of not only Spokane’s workforce, but of our emergence from the recession,” said Stuckart, who led the council’s legislative efforts this past winter for increased apprentice utilization. “With men and women like Mike leading the way, our future is bright.”
The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada (UA), affiliated with the national building trades, represents approximately 340,000 plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, service technicians and welders in local unions across North America.