You may have heard the rumblings of new training for sprinkler fitter apprentices from the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) over the last year. Well, the time has come to unveil the first stage of the apprenticeship training packages. To begin, there will be three different opportunities to select the training that best fits the needs of your office and apprentice(s). They are curriculum, virtual instruction program (VIP), and program support. Each of these can support the apprentices’ education across the four years of their apprenticeship.
The first training option is the curriculum. This is the option AFSA has offered for many years, so you may have already participated with this one. When a contractor purchases the course curriculum, their apprentice receives the Sprinkler Fitting book(s) that correspond to the desired level and are provided assessments in the form of online exams. These texts are produced through a partnership between AFSA and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).
The exciting piece for this opportunity is the textbooks have just been updated. The Sprinkler Fitting books are now in their 4th edition and will be available from AFSA in 2023. This version correlates with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, 2019 edition. Supporting instruction for the education of apprentices remains with the employer as this option only includes the curriculum.
It also includes updated assessments via an improved platform. For Level 1 and Level 2, there will be one exam per module. For Levels 3 and 4, the number of assessments will be reduced from those corresponding to the third edition of the textbooks; for subjects that warrant it, there may be more than one exam per module. In addition, the testing will be virtually proctored, which adds strength to the quality of the education program.
The updates to this tried-and-true method are right around the corner. Levels 1, 2, and 3 will be available in January 2023. Level 4 will be available in the second quarter of 2023. Each level will cost $495 per apprentice for members. Records are maintained by AFSA showing completion of levels.
VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION PROGRAM (VIP)
New for AFSA is this training option offering a virtual instruction program (VIP) for the apprentice curriculum. The Sprinkler Fitting curriculum discussed above is the same updated subject matter, but it will be taught by AFSA.
Each level provides 10 months of education to accompany the On-The-Job Learning (OJL) conducted by the employer. The education includes the newly updated Sprinkler Fitting textbooks, two live sessions each month, performance tasks to reinforce the modules, self-study components, and assessments.
The live lessons are instructed by AFSA staff and subject matter experts (SMEs). The sessions will run for two hours and include time for discussion. In order to accommodate multiple time zones, lessons will be delivered twice on each scheduled day. For the first class being launched this winter, times will be 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesdays. A calendar will be provided with registration that contains specific dates. Participants are required to attend the live sessions.
Performance tasks are the execution of items that correspond to the lesson. This reinforcement increases the learning and retention of participants. The tasks are performed by the apprentice and verified by the supervisor (employer), who is designated during registration for VIP. These tasks must be finished in order to complete the level.
During the self-study portion, the apprentice is expected to read the accompanying sections that support the lesson and review any add-on resources, such as videos or articles, that have been provided. The text provides questions with each module to help guide the apprentice and ensure key concepts are absorbed, too.
Level 1 registration is now open for the inaugural VIP, which begins with a launch on February 1, 2023. The tuition for each apprentice is $2,000/level. There is also an enrollment fee to administratively prepare the virtual spot and onboard each apprentice. The enrollment fee for members will be $425 per apprentice if enrolled by December 16, 2022, $475 per apprentice if enrolled by January 20, 2023, and $550 per apprentice from January 21, 2023, to the start of the class.
Additional levels and sessions are being planned. Check the website for updates as these develop over the next months.
This option will only be available to those with apprentices enrolled in AFSA’s VIP. At this level, AFSA will aid in supporting your Department of Labor (DOL) program(s) using the AFSA National Guideline Standards (NGS).
The NGS is pending official DOL approval at the time this article was written. This will allow contractors seeking their own DOL apprenticeship program to have a DOL-recognized base to use. A few inputs, such as contact information and wages, and the submittal should be fast-tracked. If you have wanted your own program, but didn’t know where to start, this will be a perfect opportunity.
Administrative support is also the key to this option. AFSA will administer a portal to log On-the-Job Learning (OJL) hours for the apprentices and maintain records. This can relieve your staff to focus more on the projects at hand. Other administrative features are being explored. Packages will launch later in 2023 for this option.
In most jurisdictions, apprenticeships take 8,000 hours of work, approximately 600 hours of education, and four years to complete. However, there are some areas that require an additional year with an additional 2,000 hours of work and accompanying education. Have no fear if this is your situation, AFSA has additional training materials that can be used to support the education portion in that year. Planning for this phase has not yet begun, but updating existing materials and supporting this demand is on the horizon.
Table 1 summarizes the offerings of AFSA’s apprenticeship training package. There is an option to fit everyone’s needs. This training is open to all apprentices. If you have new staff that you would like to train, but do not use a DOL program, this education program is still for you. Additional details for all of the options can be found on the AFSA website.
Education is the heart of the AFSA mission. Educating your team increases performance in your business and often improves employee motivation. For more details about the AFSA’s new apprentice training packages and to register, visit firesprinkler.org/ sprinkler-apprentice-training.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria B. Valentine, P.E., FSFPE is the director of engineering & technical services. She holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Fire Protection Engineering, both from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.). Throughout her professional career, Valentine has written many publications and presented on fire protection systems for many audiences. She is actively involved with many organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the International Code Council (ICC), the NFSA, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), among others. Over the years, she participated at the chapter, national, and international levels within the fire protection industry. Valentine has also served in leadership roles, such as a director on the SFPE Board of Directors from 2015 to 2016, president of the SFPE New York Metropolitan Chapter (2014-2015), and continues as a trustee for the SFPE New Jersey New York Metropolitan Education Foundation (2016 to present). Valentine is a Fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).