Southampton man goes for gold in world plumbing competition

SOUTHAMPTON – Tim Girouard may be the best plumber under the age of 23 in the world. Next week, the 20-year-old graduate from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Kazan, Russia, will be a global competition in various professions at the WorldSkills Competition.

Girouard will compete in the plumbing and heating category from Thursday along with 29 other young people.

Every two years WorldSkills holds a trade competition for people under the age of 23, in which competitors from 63 countries and regions participate. The competition in Russia will test skills in 56 professions, including floristry, aircraft maintenance, baking and furniture making.

“It’s like a trade Olympics,” said Girouard.

The US team consists of 22 entrants who qualified by topping their fields in the national competition run by SkillsUSA – the nonprofit that runs the US team – and then submitting an application.

In 2017, Girouard took first place in plumbing in the SkillsUSA Massachusetts competition. From there he entered the national competition, where he took third place and qualified for the international event.

What the competitions entail varies, Girouard said, but a typical challenge would be setting up plumbing for a toilet and sink and installing a heater. The challenges are assessed by professional pipe fitters and plumbers based on metrics such as accuracy, craftsmanship, and tool selection.

Girouard trained for the competition in his Southampton garage. He also works at Adams Plumbing and Heating in Adams. In 2017, Girouard Smith graduated from Northampton Voc, which both his parents attended. He tried a variety of professions and when he tried to do plumbing he stuck with it.

“I’m more of a practical person,” he said. “It’s cool when you look back on something you’ve done or done, and it’s just a good feeling.”

He started competing during his senior year in high school after his teachers encouraged him to give it a try.

Armand Lamour, a plumbing instructor at Smith Voc, said he wasn’t surprised when Girouard made it to the national SkillsUSA competition. “Tim was one of the superstars in his class: always on duty, polite, asking the right questions,” Lamour said in an email. “He was usually the first in the store to start working and the last to stop working at the end of the day.”

Robert Hahn, a New Jersey plumber who works at a commercial and technical school, has overseen Girouard’s work in competitions in the United States and is now his expert and trainer on the international competition. Hahn said he and Girouard had communicated via email and text, and a difficult aspect for American competitors is learning the metric system as the upcoming competition uses.

Overall, Hahn said: “I think Tim has a very good chance. He’s a level-headed boy who takes his previous experience with him on a job, which is good. “

At previous events in the US, Girouard said the competition lasted about six hours. But in Russia, he was told, the challenge will be longer, around 16 hours. What exactly he has to do is a mystery. “I won’t know until I get there,” said Girouard.

Greta Jochem can be reached at [email protected].

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