AFSA’s Apprenticeship & Education Committee works to develop and update the best education and training programs for the fire sprinkler industry.

A Foundation for Education

Committee Spotlight: Apprenticeship & Education

Education and training were the foundations upon which the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) was created in 1981. The individuals who gathered to form this association believed that education and apprenticeship training should be available to all members of the fire sprinkler industry—not just union members. Since its formation, AFSA has strived to offer the best education and training programs in the industry for AFSA member contractors, installers, and other influential industry groups through its Apprenticeship & Education (A&E) Committee.

The committee is co-chaired by AFSA Region 3 Director Rod DiBona of Rapid Fire Protection, Inc., Rapid City, South Dakota, and Region 1 Director Lyle Hall of Western Fire Protection, Poway, California. Committee members meet quarterly during AFSA Board of Directors’ meetings and work on programs and projects year-round.

“We strive to make sure that this committee is working on projects that are most critical to our members,” comments DiBona. “Our goal is to do a lot of listening and take a bottom-up approach to ensure that our time and efforts are spent on developing apprentice and education programs that are up-to-date and relevant to our members’ needs.”

The committee is currently working on updates to the residential installation training, the foreman/leadership training, and the update of the sprinkler fitter apprentice training series to the 2019 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. There are also continued updates to the ITM training to align its content with the 2017 edition of NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, as that is now the edition of NFPA 25 that NICET testing is based upon. Committee members are also working on a new project: a “toolkit” that will help Contractor members register their apprentice training programs. The committee is also responsible for recommending topics for upcoming seminars, webinars, convention, and other educational programming

The Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) Inspector Development Program is a project that committee members are especially proud of. The hard work, dedication, and hundreds of hours spent on this program has paid off with all of the positive feedback received and the program graduating its fifth class—a class with a 100 percent NICET II exam pass rate for all students! This program utilizes on-demand and live training courses combined with structured on-the-job training (OJT) and mentoring program with the goal of candidates passing a NICET Level II water-based inspection certification exam in just 20 months. This comprehensive program provides recommendations for implementation at every level, including hiring recommendations, applicant screening tips, training record keeping, and much more. The Spring 2020 class is currently open for enrollment with an online kick-off date of April 15, 2020. For more information or to register for the program, visit

“This is a very busy committee of dedicated members,” says Leslie Clounts, AFSA’s director of education programs and staff liaison to the committee. “I like that it’s primarily represented by contractor members, with additional support by associate members. These individuals care a great deal about AFSA training, recognizing that what they do around that committee table and beyond impacts AFSA’s contractor membership, and our industry in general, throughout the country.”

Members of the 2020 Apprenticeship & Education Committee are: Co-Chairs Rod DiBona and Lyle Hall; Derek Allen, Core & Main Fire Protection, Hayward, California; Dwight Bateman, Southeast Fire Protection, Houston, Texas; Tommy Clements, VSC Fire & Security, Cabot, Arkansas; George DiMatteo, Ferguson Fire & Fabrication, Mansfield, Texas; Tim Freiner, Potter Electric Signal Co., St. Louis, Missouri; Brett Heinrich, Bamford Fire Sprinkler Co., Salina, Kansas; Scott Holland, Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., Ocoee, Florida; Chris Johnson, Piper Fire Protection, Clearwater, Florida; Dave Karrick, Aegis Fire Systems, Inc., Pleasanton, California; Don Kaufman, Kaufman Fire Protection, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Jack Medovich, Fire & Life Safety America, Richmond, Virginia; Jeff Phifer, Crawford Sprinkler Co. of South Carolina, Lugoff, South Carolina; Rex Schwendiman, Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc., Dallas, Texas; Jay Strickland, Strickland Fire Protection, Forestville, Maryland; Terry Victor, Johnson Controls, Inc., Linthicum Heights, Maryland; and Jack Viola, JFV Engineering, LLC, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

“Training is the key to success in the fire sprinkler industry. It always was and always will be the leading reason for a productive workforce,” comments Committee Member and Past AFSA Board Chair Jack Viola, P.E., JFV Engineering, LLC, South Hadley, Massachusetts. “Over the years, the A&E Committee has developed a number of education and apprenticeship training programs that are widely used and recognized by the fire sprinkler industry. The A&E committee was the first AFSA committee to be formed in 1981. Its goal was simple—to develop the very best apprentice training curriculum for the merit shop sprinkler contractor. For almost 40 years that’s exactly what the A&E committee has done. Then as our membership grew, the need to develop additional programs was needed. Today the AFSA continues to lead the way by developing new programs and improving existing ones for the benefit of the industry. I am proud to be serving on the A&E committee for almost 40 years. I have seen it evolve and become one of the most active and hard-working of all the AFSA committees.” 

AFSA encourages its members to submit their suggestions to the A&E Committee. Notes Hall: “I was once told, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu. Get involved and participate and you will be pleasantly surprised with the personal and professional satisfaction.”

For more information on the A&E Committee and education programs, contact Staff Liaison Leslie Clounts at or visit

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: D’Arcy Montalvo is public relations manager and Sprinkler Age editor for the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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