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Charlotte Pipe speaks to career exploration class

Seventh-grade Career Exploration student, Macallister Collins, arranged for his father to be a guest speaker to Mrs. Outen’s classes. John Collins, from Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company, is a skilled pipe manufacturing specialist. Collins spoke about his employer and the importance of skilled manufacturing in Union County. This was in conjunction with Manufacturing Awareness in October and The Make It In Union County program, sponsored by the Union County Chamber of Commerce to enhance the perception of modern manufacturing and to connect or inspire students to local industries that are looking to solve the skills gap crisis.

John Collins described the process of Charlotte Pipe as the largest manufacturer of DWV pipe and fittings in the United States. DWV, or drain-waste-vent, remove sewage and wastewater and regulates the air pressure in the pipes.  

Holding up various pipes for students to see, Collins emphasizes quality control and exclaims, “We are responsible for what we sell! The most important tool I use my eyes!” Collins continues to explain, “If I wasn’t doing my job that day and I let bad pipe get out, that could be very dangerous.” He tells the story of a hotel in Texas where one bad piece of pipe was installed on the seventh floor. “The entire hotel flooded! The hotel shut down!”

Collins tells students that he has to inspect his product throughout his shift according to national plumbing standards. “These standards are important because if you just bought a house, you have a pipe in your walls. You wouldn’t want the upstairs to flood and discover that defective pipe was installed in your house!”

Mr. Collins was impressed with the plumbing knowledge of a student in the class, Jason Blackwell. “My dad’s a plumber,” Blackwell shared. He recognized many of the samples from Charlotte Pipe. 

Collins referred to himself as blue-collar working. “I work on our factory floor. I run machines that make all these pipes.” As he explained the process, students watched a company video demonstrating how the pipe is fed through an extruder, water cooled, imprinted with manufacturing specs, cut to specific lengths, packaged, and finally shipped to retail distributors they might recognize like Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Hughes Supply. To him, manufacturing means making something from scratch to become a product that you sell to the public.

“Our product is probably in your walls here. Everybody uses PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe.” Students were made aware that if they were drinking water from the water fountains at school or using the restroom, “everything goes through some kind of pipe.”

When asked about working conditions, Collins described that he works a 12-hour shift and makes 15,000 fittings. He added that he enjoys his job and that he has worked for Charlotte Pipe for over 21 years and everyone there considers their coworkers as an extension of their families. Collins said that his skilled manufacturing supported other occupations there such as quality control, chemists, engineers, metallurgists, administrative support, sales, safety and they had 3 on-site nurses.

He encouraged students to consider Charlotte Pipe when they graduated high school or their post-secondary education. “We have 10 different buildings just in Monroe and each one makes something totally different.” He added that the company boasts over 4,000 employees to include locations in Utah, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Monroe, and Charlotte. “And we just opened another facility in Florida!”

Deanna Outen