The Viega Trades Education Network (VTEN) is an impactful and far-reaching program to train the next generation of contractors in the plumbing and HVAC industries. Recently, they expanded the nine-year-old effort to reach even more tradespeople, trainers, and future pressers.
To explain VTEN, we sat down for a Q&A session with its leaders: Troy Locke, Director of Content and Engagement, Dan Rademacher, Program Manager, and Colton Henkowski, Technical Trainer.
Q: Can you start by telling us about the VTEN program?
Troy: We partner with training directors and instructors through local union halls, training centers, and trade programs to enrich their programs and provide them with the curriculum, tools and fittings they need to teach their students how to press.
Q: How many organizations are currently enrolled?
Troy: The program started with partnerships with our UA chapters, local union hall training centers, but we are expanding to include additional schools and organizations.
We currently have 120 locations across the U.S. and Canada. The majority -- 77 plus locations in the U.S. -- are all union, except for three. We have a strong relationship with the unions and are excited about expanding to reach even more trade programs.
Q: How does press technology fit into their current curricula?
Troy: Obviously, our joining method (press) is a skill they must have. Since they also have to learn to weld, thread, solder, braze, and heat fuse plastic piping, they need to learn press, too.
And why not have the best in press teach the ins and outs: how to correct deflection, what to look for, pipe prep and the different applications and alloys we offer.
Dan: The VTEN program is bringing a more progressive, modern technology to the pipeline. It's providing an opportunity to bring another joining method into the piping trades and maybe some areas of the country that aren't aware of press. And it's our job to make sure that the trainees understand it and are installing it properly.
Q: How do you educate the instructors to best pass on the information to their students?
Colton: Through the Train the Trainer and VTEN conference portions of the program, we're able to meet with the different organizations and credential their instructors and employees. We teach them about our products, applications, all of it, and it empowers the entire group to take their school and students further.
Q: Why did each of you get involved with the VTEN program?
Dan: This program means a lot to me because we support the piping industry and the journeyman and apprenticeship training centers by bringing press technology education and training to the trades in a concise and impactful way.
Colton: VTEN means everything to me because I come from a UA trade background. When I was a young kid, I didn't have much to look forward to but the training that went into making me a pipefitter led me to where I am in my career today. I want to do the same for the next generation.
Troy: We're really building a network, that relationship with Viega and the trades. Bringing awareness to the trades is the ultimate goal, getting kids excited to go into the trades, you know, make trades cool again. And that's really what we want, to grow that excitement around it. It's investing in our future and in the future of our industry.