When Kristina Williams was accepted into the University of Virginia’s plumbing apprenticeship program, she was ready to prove herself.
“The apprenticeship is a big deal,” said Kristina, adding that only 10 people are selected annually from approximately 600 applications.
Before starting the four-year program in August 2013, the Earlysville, Virginia, native was no stranger to hands-on jobs. She previously worked at a daycare, a horse farm, and cleaned first-year dormitories at UVA. In her spare time, Kristina also helped a friend do plumbing work, which she discovered that she really enjoyed.
During the apprenticeship, Kristina experienced all aspects of plumbing, from digging ditches to jackhammering floors to repairing a broken water line in the middle of a 6-degree night. She’s also worked on high-pressure steam and deionized water systems – valuable opportunities that she says are uncommon in her field.
Kristina completed the apprenticeship in July 2017 and currently works for UVA Facilities Management as a plumber and steamfitter.
She credits the apprenticeship with a rewarding career and financial stability, and she recently purchased a new car and dream home for her and her newborn daughter. Kristina plans to pursue her plumbing license through the state, and hopes to one day become a master plumber.
"I think the biggest advantage of the apprenticeship is being able to learn and build a career and have no student loans to pay off at the end," she said. Nationally, plumbers’ mean annual wages are around $56,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are more than 533,000 apprenticeships across the country, with more opportunities added every day.
Editor’s note: Kristina’s story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.
Briar Gibbons is a public affairs intern with the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.