Plumbers & Pipefitters training program buys old Babies R Us

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The former Babies R Us store near Towne West Square will be repurposed to house the Plumbers & Pipefitters Apprenticeship Training of Kansas program.

The Wichita Eagle

Wichita’s former Babies R Us store on West Kellogg is getting a new lease on life, but don’t expect to buy diapers or formula there any time soon.

After sitting vacant for more than three years, the building will be repurposed as the new home of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Apprenticeship Training of Kansas program.

Program director John Clark said PPATKS has outgrown its 14,000-square-foot downtown space. Upgrading to the 45,000-square-foot Babies R Us building suits his plans for growth.

“It will be a mixture of classroom, open lab space, offices and storage,” Clark said of the new building, which he said he expects to open in April or May 2022.

“We’ve been searching around for a location, and that really fits our needs because there’s hotels right there nearby and food and convenience stores nearby.”

The program is designed for students who want to become journeyman plumbers, pipefitters or HVAC service technicians. PPATKS sets them up with a job while they complete the certification process.

“It’s an earn to learn program, so our students don’t pay anything to go to school because it’s paid for by our (union) members,” Clark said. “They come to school one week out of every six weeks for five years.”

PPATKS currently has 286 students enrolled. Clark wants to reach 600 in the next five years.

He said the new space will help accommodate that ambitious goal, and he’s eager to show it off.

“When we get open, we’ll be happy to have visitors come and see what we’ve got going,” Clark said.

He said anyone interested in the program should reach out to the PPATKS office.

“I call them life-changing careers. Not only life-changing but family-changing, because we have full benefits — pension funds and a 401(k) with health care benefits that come with that,” Clark said.

Jeff Englert and Trent Garman of NAI Martens represented PPATKS in the purchase.

Matthew Kelly joined The Eagle in April 2021. He’s covering business and development in the Wichita area. You can contact him at 316-268-6203 and [email protected]