Utah’s building problem: New rules affect electricians and plumbers

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SALT LAKE CITY — The construction industry is booming in Utah — so much so that sometimes it’s tough to find contractors. Over the past couple months the KSL Investigators have been digging into Utah’s building problem. Now, a new law will start to affect licensed electricians and plumbers as well.

Some lawmakers say there’s a shortage of plumbers and electricians in Utah. But recent changes to the law could soon make it easier to become one.

Nicholas Kay is a plumber, and he said he’s proud of his profession. He says it took him four years of schooling and rigorous testing to get his journeyman license.

“Plumbing and electrical, there’s a reason we have licenses and it’s to protect the public,” Kay said.

Recent changes to Utah law however, are making it much easier to become a plumber or an electrician. The change gives people “expedited licensure requirements.”

While the new law can be confusing, Kay says that means you no longer have to go to four years of school, and the test got a whole lot easier.

“What that does is it puts unexperienced journeymen into the field and possibly into Utah homes and it can eventually hurt our wages and put the public at risk ultimately,” he said.

The Department of Commerce and Representative Mike Shultz, the lawmaker responsible for the change, declined to speak with us.

However, KSL Investigators sat down with Shultz in November.

“All the trade exam was, I believe, was a way to kind of keep people out of the industry and make it hard because it was a hard test,” Shultz said.

He said the reason for his bill was that there isn’t enough labor in Utah, and relaxing the requirements to get a license is a good thing for the market.

There's a reason we have licenses and it's to protect the public.

–Nicholas Kay, plumber

But Kay disagrees, saying it’s a safety issue.

“If you have individuals that can test out, that happen to pass the test but have no hands-on work experience, and a house burns down, these contractors are going to pay the price, and so is the customer,” Kay said.

He says right now there are 8,000 plumbers and electricians in the valley, and the change to the law renders their licenses useless.

“I think it’s time that we need to stand up for ourselves or no one will,” Kay said. “They changed it the one way, I’m hoping we can change it back.”

The change in the law could have been effective as early as today, but the Department of Commerce is still finalizing its review.

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Tania Mashburn


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