A building along the Beltline on Madison's south side worked well enough as a training center for Madison's Steamfitters Local 601 when it had around 25 apprentices in its program.
Now that the number has swelled to between 100 and 115, it's just too small, business manager Joel Zielke said.
"We're all out of room," he said.
In a new facility on the far east side that got City Council approval earlier this month, the steamfitters are set to have nearly five times the amount of training space, growth befitting the uptick in the industry.
The $12.3 million construction project is expected to break ground in late July or August at 6302 Town Center Drive, along Interstate 94 near Sprecher Road. When completed next fall, it'll provide areas for hands-on training in welding and piping skills that steamfitters use in construction projects.
With commercial development expanding in Madison, steamfitters are in demand. National projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 12 percent growth for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters between 2014 and 2024. That's greater than the 7 percent for all occupations and even the 10 percent projected for construction trades workers.
"We see the demand just continuing to grow for steamfitters because it's such a diverse trade," Zielke said.
Steamfitters can install heating and cooling in large buildings and work on high-pressure joints in power plants as well as service furnaces in houses, Zielke said.
A 58,450-square-foot facility is planned on 7.89 acres near Madison Fire Station 13, which opened in 2014. Documents and plans filed with the city show the building containing traditional classrooms as well as training areas for welding and fabrication.
The five-year program, which now operates at 1214 Ann St., includes three years of daytime courses and five years of nighttime learning before an apprentice can become a journeyman.
Indoor training equipment, including a three-story rigging structure, will allow apprentices to learn in a controlled environment before they have to work in the elements, Zielke said.
In the past, apprentices learned skills on job sites. But with shorter windows of time available in construction projects today, Zielke said, a modern training center was needed.
"We realized that we needed to step up and get the apprentices that hands-on experience that maybe is starting to be a little lacking out on job sites due to today's marketplace," he said. "Let's get these guys night school and day school classes where they're simulating as close as possible what happens out on a job site."
Federal employment figures show 1,120 plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters employed in Madison as of May 2015, with an average yearly salary of $73,640, 34 percent greater than the industry's national average.