Operating Engineers and the Unions
Some of you might know that I posted a similar question regarding the Stationary Engineer's exam. From what I have found out the test is not required where I live (Texas), but is required in states such as New York where the union is prevalent.
My current question concerns my situation as a high school senior attempting to enter the field of building engineering after graduation. I have read that some of these unions offer apprenticeships which are two to three years long. After completing the apprenticeship, you are able to take the stationary engineer’s exam and enter the field. From my perspective this seems like a great opportunity for young people interested in this field.
As someone coming from Texas would it be possible for me to enter a union in Chicago or NY and enter such a program? If so how can I find out more?
I am familiar with the way things are done in Texas. I have met several building engineers while touring various class A properties in my area. I have also done a brief apprenticeship. How do union operating engineers(such as Local 94 in NYC) differ from non union?
I have great interest in this field, but realize there is much to learn. An operating engineer must have proficient knowledge of not only HVAC but also; plumbing, electrical, and life safety systems. I have basic knowledge of building systems and their operation, and wish to further my education through hands on training. A union apprenticeship could be an opportunity to eventually become a operating/stationary engineer.
Thank you for your time and interest. Any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Anything is possible.... but I'd say it's going to be pretty tough jumping right into Local 94 or 30. From what I know, it's pretty tough to get into Local 30's apprenticeship program. I don't think 94 has an apprenticeship program. NYC has 2 licenses; Refrigeration thru the FDNY and the High Psi Boiler operator thru the DOB.
You'd most likely have to start all the way at the bottom as a maintenance mechanic or something along those lines at a college or hospital and work your way up.
Have you considered college? Merchant Marine Academy? Navy?
Thank you for your response. How can I begin studying for the Stationary Enginnering or boiler license? Are there any textbooks or websites that would provide good reading on the subject?
Originally Posted by timmy2734
You can study all you want for the steam license, but you don't meet the qualifications to get the license. Refrigeration is a little easier to get (either class hours or hands on).
Have you looked at what jobs are available in your area? Not necessarily as an engineer, but something in maintenance? Honeywells gray manual is a good read. There's also been plenty of stuff posted on the site about chillers. Try using the search and I think you'll have plenty to read.
Some of the best plant operations guys going have come right out of the U.S. Navy. They have excellent training programs, in addition to teaching the intangibles such as attitude, preparedness among other things. As far as getting into the operations side of the business i nthe big city, I would HIGHLY recommend you discussing the posibilities with the local folks running the places that interest you. There is a lot of misinformation put out about what unions can and cannot do for you, as well as how easy or difficult membership is to achieve.
Another good avenue might be ot find folks who are actually members of the particular place, and have a sidebar discussion with them.
Knowing what I know now, I definitely would've went to one of the merchant marine academy's in my area. Couldn't go wrong with the Navy either.....
In NY or Chicago 1/2 of your apprentiship, minimum, will be devoted to the worship and support of a particular political party. If you are sheeplike and prefer to be told what you believe then they may be for you. You will learn no more about the job in twice the time there then you will anywhere else. Navy would serve you much better or MM academy. IMHO.
Thank you for all the responses.
One thing I have noticed about the operating engineers who work for the unions is that they seem to do much more work in house. For instance they clean condenser/evaporator tubes, boiler tubes, and cooling towers. They also do more major repairs on the equipment such as replacing a burner or rebuilding a pump. In Texas this type of maintenance would be contracted out.
I know this from reading union newsletters/websites, etc. I also know that unionized operating engineers seem to take a great deal of pride in the work they do and the craftsmanship of their equipment. They have some of the cleanest and well maintained central plants you will see in any facility because of the fact that they do the vast majority of maintenance on the plant themselves.
It also appears that they have some of the best specialists in various trades on their staff. For instance nearly all of their engineers could have a stationary engineer’s license. It does not seem too uncommon to have a boiler operator in the group as well as electrician and refrigeration specialist.
Do I get the right impression? What are the reasons behind this union specialization? I would love to hear your thoughts/opinions, especially if you work or formally worked in such an environment.
Thanks for your time.
You should really take Flange's advice. Go to a building in your area and ask for the Chief or Facilities Guy. Get the info from guys in your area on how things work and go from there.
I think there's a guy on here, Shophound that is an engineer in Dallas at a Museum if I remember correctly. Knows his stuff pretty damn well.. you could try messaging him.
Thanks for all the replies.
I agree with the advice posted here regarding the importance of networking. As I prepare to graduate from HS I am working on learning as much about this field as I possibly can. My goal is to find a long term apprenticeship with a crew willing to teach me the basics. I am willing to start out at minimum wage, as a lamper or helper in a facility where I can get hands on experience in the daily operations.
As I stated before I did a brief apprenticeship over the summer at a property in my area. It was a great experience for me, and really brought the field to life.
If I am fortunate enough to get a long term apprenticeship after HS, I will continue my formal education by studying for and taking courses related to the stationary engineers license and or boiler operator’s license. I read in another thread that Steam Plant Operation by Woodruff, Lammers, and Lammers is a good read for someone with my interest. Has anyone read it? Can a copy be obtained at a local bookstore, or would this be a special order?
If anyone can recommend additional reading or classes that might be helpful I’d greatly appreciate it.
As I stated before; I greatly enjoy reading about the experiences that veterans of this field have to share, especially any advice they can offer to someone like myself.
Thanks again for the advice that has been offered here. I will continue my networking, as well as my search for various education opportunities in the engineering/plant operations area.
Thanks again for the advice.
Someone here mentioned that; "Some of the best plant operations guys have come out of the US Navy."
As someone learning this field I am curious; how does being in the Navy prepare us for the position of central plant operator or stationary engineer?
Any input is appreciated!
The bowels of every ship are chock full of boiler, plumbing, electrical and refrigeration systems, and the Navy trains men to operate, maintain, and repair them.
Originally Posted by MHall
Thanks. I see that you live in my area. Are you an operating/chief engineer at a facility in DFW?
Originally Posted by mark beiser