Gavin Clift, a Naples-based construction plumber at Pro-Tec Plumbing & Air, is the first in Florida to complete the rigorous Fast Track to Service Plumbing training program.

Fast Track is a 33-course module created by the Florida Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors (FAPHCC), a partnership of contractors, manufacturers, wholesalers and industry affiliate members. Members designed and implemented the Fast Track program in response to a statewide shortage of trained plumbing professionals.

“When Gavin first applied for a job at Pro-Tec in 2020, he had just moved to Naples and had no plumbing experience,” said Pro-Tec President and Co-Owner Rick Hume, Jr., a master plumber. “What he lacked in experience, though, was overshadowed by his determination and eagerness to learn the trade.”

Pro-Tec hired Clift as an apprentice through its newly created Pro-Tec School of Apprenticeship, which offers paid on-the-job training opportunities. He then enrolled in FAPHCC’s Fast Track program, which complements on-the-job training with an academic curriculum based on best practices within the plumbing industry. Fast Track was designed as an 18-month program, but Clift completed all course modules in 12 months.

“As a recent high school graduate, I was looking for a career that would offer some level of protection when the job market or economy changes,” said Clift, whose job entails building plumbing systems for new homes and businesses in Southwest Florida. “We will always need skilled trade workers, especially plumbers, and Pro-Tec has a defined career ladder and great benefits.”

In addition to the Pro-Tec School of Apprenticeship, the Naples-based company created a Career Development Plan that clearly defines the steps and skills employees need to progress from entry-level positions into management roles.

Pro-Tec was a 2021 finalist for GrowFL’s annual Companies to Watch awards program. However, its growth is tied directly to its ability to hire plumbing and HVAC technicians in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.

“Every contractor would love to have a stack of job applications from individuals with 10 or 20 years of experience, but we’re realistic,” said Pro-Tec Vice President and Co-Owner Brandon Hume. “You have to get creative with recruitment and retention strategies, and realize that you can teach hardworking, trustworthy individuals like Gavin how to be a plumber. It isn’t an overnight process, but it’s an investment into an individual’s future as well as the company’s future.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the need for American companies to hire 51,000 plumbers and pipefitters annually to fill job vacancies.

“Gavin Clift and Pro-Tec Plumbing were among the first to embrace the new Fast Track training program,” said FAPHCC President Brett Garber, a master plumber and president of Samco Plumbing in Lakeland. “We applaud both for recognizing the enormous need for talent in the construction trades, and for investing the time and money necessary to develop the skills required of our future construction workforce.”