‘An Olympics of trades’: Southampton man goes for gold in world plumbing competition

  • Tim Girouard, 20, of Southampton, at a SkillsUSA event. Courtesy of SkillsUSA

  • Tim Girouard, 20, of Southampton, focuses on a plumbing job at a SkillsUSA event. Courtesy of SkillsUSA

  • Tim Girouard, 20, of Southampton, will compete at the WorldSkills competition in Kazan, Russia. Courtesy of SkillsUSA

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2019 10:45:23 AM

SOUTHAMPTON — Tim Girouard may be the world’s best plumber under the age of 23. Next week, the 20-year-old graduate of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School will be put to the test in Kazan, Russia, at the WorldSkills Competition, a global contest in various trades.

Girouard will be competing alongside 29 other young people in the plumbing and heating category starting Thursday.

Every two years, WorldSkills hosts a trades competition for those under the age of 23, drawing competitors from 63 countries and regions. The competition in Russia will test skills in 56 trades, including floristry, aircraft maintenance, baking and cabinet making.

“It’s like an Olympics of trades,” Girouard said.

The U.S. team is made up of 22 competitors who qualified by placing in the top of their fields at the national competition put on by SkillsUSA — the nonprofit that organizes the U.S. team — and then submitting an application.

In 2017, Girouard placed first in plumbing at the SkillsUSA Massachusetts competition. From there, he advanced to the national contest where he placed third, qualifying him to apply 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 some heating. Challenges are judged by professional pipefitters and plumbers on metrics including accuracy, craftsmanship and tool selection.

Girouard has been training for the competition in his garage in Southampton. He also works at Adams Plumbing and Heating in Adams. In 2017, Girouard graduated from Smith Voc in Northampton, which both of his parents also attended. He tried a variety of trades and once he tried plumbing, he stuck with it.

“I’m more of a hands-on kind of person,” he said. “It’s cool when you look back at something you made or did, and it’s just a good feeling.”

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

Armand Lamour, a plumbing instructor at Smith Voc, said he was not surprised when Girouard made it to the national SkillsUSA competition. “Tim was one of the superstars of his class: always on task, polite, asking the right kind of questions,” Lamour said in an email. “He was most often the first one into the shop to start working, and the last one to stop working at the end of the day.”

Robert Hahn, a New Jersey plumber who works at a trade and technical school, has overseen Girouard’s work at competitions in the U.S. and is now his expert and trainer for the international competition. Hahn said he and Girouard have been communicating through email and text, and that one difficult aspect for American competitors is having to learn the metric system, as that’s what the upcoming contest uses.

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

In previous events in the U.S., Girouard said the competition has been roughly six hours. But in Russia, he’s been told, the challenge will be longer, around 16 hours. What exactly he will have to do is a mystery. “I won’t know until I get there,” Girouard said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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