Wayne Williams began picking up construction skills as a youngster helping his father, an independent contractor who built custom homes and additions. He noticed that his dad did everything but plumbing. “So, my goal was to become a plumber and hook up with my dad in a father-and-son business,” Williams says.
After college at the University of California, Fullerton, Williams played professional basketball in Brazil for four years. During the off seasons he moved to Las Vegas, where a former teammate was a pre-apprentice in the plumbing trade.
Williams entered the Local 525 apprenticeship program—the national plumbers-and-pipefitters union recognizes the Las Vegas-based training center—and developed an instant affinity to the craft. “Everything was copper pipe, steel pipe, 30-in-dia pipe—fascinating for me. I fell in love with the whole fabrication part of it. My journeyman let me run a bead, and once I fired up on the stick welding machine, I instantly fell in love with welding and the plumbing and pipefitting trade,” Williams says.
“I’ve always been good with my hands and using my mind to figure out how to build this or that,” he adds. “My dad taught me a lot: how to be proud of my work, to have patience, to make sure I’m doing what the customer wants."
During his 18-year career he has worked exclusively on commercial projects—hotels, casinos, and industrial projects. “I’ve installed cooling towers, chillers, pumps, boilers, air separators and heat exchangers. I’ve pretty much touched all the casinos out here,” Williams says.
For the past year, Williams notes that he has worked for MMC Contractors, a national mechanical contractor. “We fabricate and assemble all the hydronic piping conveying water, steam, air, or any other fluids from the central plant to a desired location and back,” he says. “The best thing is the constant challenges that the trade puts in front of us on a daily basis. I do tungsten inert gas welding of all types of material—carbon steel, stainless steel, and Inconol at certain angles and degrees. The absolutely best part is seeing the finished product, to see that casino, school or refinery up and working.”
Casinos have a special flair for pipefitters. “The coolest thing I’ve done was a water show for the Bellagio casino,” Williams explains. “It has a big lake in front of it with super shooter water cannons that are synchronized to music. It was the first time I ran a job. I had six divers in the water. We had to learn how to dive and how to use tools underwater, and I’m not a swimmer.”
Eventually, Williams adds, “I would like to become a foreman or superintendent. Right now I enjoy working on tools. My aspirations are to continue to work hard and get all my kids graduated from high school and into college. Also, to show them how important family is and both parents working, getting into a good career, sticking with it, and letting it work for you.”
His words of advice for the industry? “The world is very innovative. Innovation is only going to make what we do better,” says Williams.
As for innovation, Williams tells ENR he already has something in the works: “We’re constantly trying to invent something to speed up the process. I did come up with a clamp for fitting and welding, which attaches to the underside of a v-head so the pipe can’t fall off the jack stand. It’s called a Steelman Pro pipe clamp. My fellow pipefitter Alex Palominos and I hold the patent on it. It went on the market in March, and is being distributed by Grainger.”
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