Everyone thinks you need to go to college to be successful. I thought college was what I wanted to do. I like art, so I pursued an Associate’s Degree in Architecture and Graphic Design at Roger Williams University. I took classes on and off for 2 ½ – 3 years, but I wasn’t too comfortable with the program. After college, I took time off to think about the kind of work I really wanted to do.
I knew from my research that trades workers are in high demand. I was looking for my best option in the trades. On MTTI’s website, I read that the Building & Property Trades program covers 7 or 8 skills areas in multiple trades, including plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Not many programs offer all of these trades in just one class. I could see a better future in it—the broad curriculum would provide so much opportunity for me.
The house module that the students built included framing, wallboards, siding, roofing, interior archways between rooms and trim, wallpaper, paint and flooring. The electrical panels, outlets, lighting and plumbing they installed inside the module were all operational. I was in awe that one program can teach all of that in 7 months!
My instructors, Don and Jake were phenomenal. Both did an awesome job explaining every day what you had to do and how to do it. Jake was great at connecting with students. He is one of my all-time favorite teachers—and has become a friend. Don has so much knowledge; you can ask him any question and he will be able to answer it. If you are hesitant about going to school because you think the instructors won’t care about you, they are here for you. The Building Trades instructors at MTTI help everyone—they want you to do well.
I quickly realized I didn’t need to be afraid to ask questions. It’s easy to feel that others know more than you do, or that you won’t be good enough. But no one knows everything. Everyone comes to learn the same thing. Everyone wants to get the internship and the job at the end of the program. Class members work closely together from Monday through Friday each week, for six months until internship—it’s a lot like working with colleagues at a job. I overcame any shyness by introducing myself to my classmates right away, and made my first friend—now he is one of my best friends. As you make friends with everyone, the program starts to flow; you get your rhythm down.
My favorite units were HVAC and electrical; I also enjoyed plumbing. I came in with some background in construction, but whether you are new to the trades or have experience, the program teaches you more than can ever imagine knowing. All of the skills were equally challenging, but the way in which the instructors taught them made us able to successfully apply them.
I emailed ESI’s Service Manager, Mike Muratori, and President, Shawn Elliot. I told them my story and asked for an interview. They agreed to meet with me. Mike has served on MTTI’s HVACR Technician Program Advisory Committee for years, but he was surprised to learn about all of the skills that I was learning in the Building & Property Trades program. My interview went really well. On my first day of internship, I was already hired as a Small Projects Mechanic.
Recently they opened a small projects department for jobs that take 2 or 3 weeks compared with large industrial projects that can extend for months. Our department is the first on the job. We install ductwork for rooftop heaters and inside the buildings. We also put in the electrical wiring along the walls with the piping. We make sure we have everything set up and in place for the service technicians; they turn everything on and make sure it is working for the customer. Sometimes our group will do the whole job, from start to finish.
Going into the program, I didn’t have a vision of where I would go at the program’s end. I thought I might work in something involving HVAC or electrical—so I was excited to hit those subjects during the program. Even better, working at ESI I get to use the HVAC and electrical skills I learned in the program. I am getting a Massachusetts Sheet Metal License, an EPA card for refrigeration, a Hot Works Safety Certificate. I had already earned my OSHA Certification at MTTI, so that was all set.
I’ve been given a gas card and in the near future will have my own ESI truck to drive to job sites. The company also gives us uniforms and cell phones, for communicating on the job. They also supply head-to-toe safety harnesses and retractable harnesses. We will be working pretty high up, either on rooftops or 60 feet up in the air on the lift, while installing piping that could be 100 feet long.
I don’t know what I would be doing if I hadn’t enrolled in the building and property trades program. Going to college had ups and down; most of the time I wasn’t really enjoying it—I just wanted to get it done. I tried different types of jobs, but they never really worked out for me. I would get down on myself some days, thinking I would never find anything I would like to do.
Initially I was on the wait list to attend the program. Someone who had enrolled was unable to attend, and I got that spot. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had to wait another year to start school
The first person in my family to choose to work in the trades, MTTI opened my eyes to new possibilities. I love getting down and dirty, working with my hands, and getting things done. I can’t sit behind a desk every day from 9-5; I have to be moving around. I want to feel like I am contributing to this life I have by building things. Working in the trades now gives me a sense of accomplishment—when I complete a project, it makes me feel good.
If I hadn’t risked trying things that didn’t work out, I probably wouldn’t be doing work now that I really enjoy. As I complete the Building Trades Program, I’m very happy with my work life. ESI is a good company to work for, with plenty of room to grow. I can go into the service side, the mechanical side—or I can use my skills in graphic design and architecture in the AutoCAD department, if in the future, I want to do the mechanical drawing.
Young people like me question whether to go to college or to a trade school. If you are choosing between college or a trade school, ask yourself whether the work you will be doing after graduating school will make you happy in the long run. Will you feel you are being successful in whatever job you have chosen to do? Will you wake up every day, looking forward to going to work? If, in your gut, training to work in the trades feels right for you, then go for it.
I had a great time in school. The instructors do a good job connecting with their students. The program gives you plenty of room to explore the different trades, and ties everything together in the end. At the program’s completion, you can choose which trade you want to pursue—or use all of your skills in a property maintenance position. The work I put into the program was well worth it; it has paid off for me.