Instructor Profile: Collin Michael
One day while out riding in the California desert with friends more than 20 years ago, Collin Michael’s life changed forever when he met a gentleman who owned his own sprinkler fitter company.
Collin’s father was a firefighter, so Collin was aware of the importance of sprinklers, but found a new appreciation for sprinkler fitting after talking with the business owner. Collin learned he could start working in the fab shop, and when UA Local 669 Road Sprinkler Fitters needed new apprentices, he would be among fellow candidates to fulfill those positions.
“On a whim, I moved to San Diego, and within eight months, I was in as an apprentice,” recalled Collin.
Today, he is the superintendent for operations at a large sprinkler fitter company in Phoenix. He’s also an OSHA-certified instructor at UA Local 669 in the Valley, where he is responsible for teaching approximately 80 apprentices five-hour classes 13 Saturdays a year. Apprentices must complete a certain number of courses each quarter and complete 19 workbooks at home over the five years of training.
Collin teaches through lecturing, group exercises, some hands-on experience with valve stations and modules, and providing foreman-type exercises that challenge students to estimate cost, time, materials, and equipment for a hypothetical repair.
Collin offered advice for anyone currently in high school who is interested in the trades.
“Do not blow off high school,” he said. “I graduated high school with honors, and I could have gone to college, but I really didn’t want to go to school anymore. With a solid high school education, I rose through the industry rather quickly.”
Once established in the sprinkler fitter trade, Collin earned his associate degree in Trade and Industrial Teacher Education in 2019.
Collin said one of the biggest draws to being a sprinkler fitter is the job is virtually “recession-proof.”
“You not only learn about sprinkler system installation, but also the preventative maintenance that needs to be done on a regular basis because regular inspections are required by law,” explained Collin. “We were even busy when everyone else was shut down during Covid because the preventative maintenance is easier to do when no one is around.”
In addition to the great feeling of giving back to his profession, Collin said he appreciates how being an instructor keeps his own knowledge relevant.
“I could do this for 30 years and still not know everything,” he said. “Every time a new construction material or a new type of fab is introduced, we learn a new way to control a potential fire. With the onset of lithium battery use, new standards were introduced because those fires are very hard to fight. There’s always something new for me to learn, too.”