Serving on the Front Lines of Fire Protection
While firefighters are the brave individuals who are at the forefront during a fire emergency, there is another group of individuals who play a major role in protecting both people and buildings—sprinkler fitters. During the time between the start of a fire to when firefighters arrive at a home or business, fire sprinkler systems can reduce the blaze, smoke, and toxic fumes a fire produces. With certified construction craft professionals in sprinkler fitting, one can ensure the installation and testing of their automatic protection sprinkler system will work during an emergency. The progression and growth of sprinkler fitting not only enhances the protection of buildings but has also created a field of dedicated craft professionals focused on safety.
Recognizing its importance to the safe construction of buildings, fire sprinklers are now found in almost every public and residential building. Although fire sprinkler systems have changed very little over time, it has had an immense impact. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire damage can cost, on average, $53,000 for buildings without fire sprinkler systems, compared to $13,000 with. In addition, out of 1,000 home structure fires, the fire death rate was lower by 82 percent in homes with sprinklers installed, proving to be effective.
When looking at the success of this industry, it stems from both the benefit automatic fire sprinkler systems bring and from the individuals who install them each day. With a system that can reduce damage, saving property and lives, the industry needs qualified individuals who are equipped with the knowledge and experience to ensure these systems are installed and working properly.
On the rise, a career in sprinkler fitting is projecting a 14 percent growth rate from 2018 to 2028. In fact, overall, the construction industry will see a steady increase. By 2022, 1.4 million craft professionals will be needed for construction jobs. But despite this need for craft professionals, attracting and retaining skilled workers has become a big challenge. ManpowerGroup released a talent shortage survey and found 54 percent of companies globally report talent shortages—the highest in over a decade. With fierce competition between construction companies to find skilled workers, craft professionals have become the most in-demand type of employees.
The construction industry is facing a skills gap, and as fewer people are becoming craft professionals, the labor shortage will be greater in a few years. Bringing new values, ideas, and knowledge to the workforce, younger generations will need to find a place within the industry. By promoting diversity and enacting more sustainable practices, these adoptions within construction will appeal to Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. Recruiting these generations, especially Gen Z, will impact the future of construction, as it is estimated that 29 percent of the current workforce will retire by 2026. With many craft professionals leaving the industry, newcomers will be in a good position and have endless opportunities.
Starting a career in construction can be done with short-term expenses. Depending on the craft, some may require an associate or bachelor’s degree, which can be completed at a technical school or community college. However, most of these educational requirements can be completed with an apprenticeship. Following an earn-while-you-learn program means that while learning the skills and core competencies needed for the craft, one can begin hands-on training in the field and earn a paycheck.
Completion of a degree from a technical or community college, registered apprenticeship program, or industry training program is needed to pursue a career in sprinkler fitting. To ensure the installation and testing of automatic fire sprinklers are done correctly, sprinkler fitters are also required to know all the local and national sprinkler codes to ensure the work is according to specifications. Requiring at least two to five years of experience, sprinkler fitters must be licensed before they work independently and pass a written examination.
The construction industry offers a variety of careers, freedom to work in a variety of unique locations, career growth, and high salaries. Companies are willing to pay more for skilled professionals, and in 2018, the average salary for a sprinkler fitter was $55,328. Not including overtime or incentives, craft professions are able to live comfortably, and if the desire is to move up in the industry, there is no limit to professional growth.
Without investing thousands toward education and training, craft professionals can start a career with little to no debt and jumpstart their career well before college students, or other individuals in a different field. Able to get ahead of the game, this pathway makes sense for someone looking to make money right away. The next generation will benefit from the growing opportunity in the industry. With a combination of classroom and hands-on learning, newcomers will be highly marketable in the job market.
Within the field of construction, and specifically, regarding sprinkler fitting, there are numerous opportunities to create and leave an impact in the industry. From residential homes to restaurants and corporate buildings, sprinkler fitters play a major role in protecting against fire damage. Fire sprinkler fitters are at the front lines of fire safety and are continuing to transform the workplace and individual safety every day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deanna Quintana, originally from Las Vegas, is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in public relations with a minor in business administration at the University of Florida. As a marketing intern at NCCER in Alachua, Florida, she devotes her time to writing, editing, and updating content for the company website. In her role, Quintana is learning about the construction industry and how to better recruit and educate new craft professionals.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Promote the fire sprinkler industry at your local high schools and trade schools! Copies of this article and the BYF trading cards can be distributed to school counselors. Also, visit AFSA’s NextGen Initiative’s industry recruitment webpage at www.firesprinkler.org/Recruitment for additional resources.