Welcome again to one of our favorite annual features, CONTRACTOR's Under Thirty All-Stars, where we interview young people pursuing careers in plumbing & heating and talk to them about the reasons they chose the skilled trades, how their journeys are progressing, and about their hopes for the future.
Hiring and retaining skilled workers has ranked as a top concern of plumbing contractors in every reader poll this magazine has conducted the past decade. As Mike Corsillo in this month's Forum (pg. 18) said, "If I had the workforce available, I would have the opportunity to triple the size of my business."
With trade and vocational schools not turning out enough skilled workers to supply the need, more and more contracting businesses have taken to in-house workforce development programs, often offering new workers "earn as you learn" positions. And time and again we hear that the most important qualities for those new hires are thing that can't be taught.
First, mechanical aptitude; knowing which end of a wrench is up. And second—and maybe more important—a good attitude; a willingness to learn, to work hard, to get along with other people. If those two things are there, then everything else can be taught. Read on to hear about some young people who exemplify that attitude, and their perspectives on the industry.
Andy J. Egan Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Title: Service Project Manager
I've always enjoyed working with my hands fabricating, welding, working on cars and farm equipment. I knew I wanted to get into a career that could challenge me both mentally and physically.
I'm currently working as our service project manager, quoting and managing smaller-scale HVAC service projects. I've been in this position for almost a year. I have been working with Andy J. Egan Co. for almost 10 years, and I enjoy the fact that there's a different challenge every day.
I feel as if every day you have the opportunity to learn something. As the service trades evolve with new technology from industry manufacturers, there's always something to learn and educate yourself on.
My plan for the future is to keep learning. Keeping up with equipment manufacturers' latest and greatest technologies helps us give our customers the best possible systems for their applications.
Title: Grand Rapids Service Manager
In my current role, I manage day-to-day operations of our service department. This includes bidding and selling service work, maintenance contracts, managing jobs, supporting technicians in the field and ensuring that we deliver the best service possible for our customers. I enjoy the fast pace and ever-changing work environment.
I am still pretty new in my current role, so my plans for the future as of now are to continue to learn, develop and grow within this position and try to stay ahead of the industry changes.
Title: Maintenance Technician
My father was a carpenter and he used to bring me to jobs on the weekend and in the summer. We built decks and did home renovations together. I’m curious by nature about tools and mechanics, and I always had a knack for fixing things. I grew up in a DIY-type of environment, so there was always some sort of project going on at home or around the neighborhood.
I did well in school and got into a good college, but I found myself losing interest quickly in the academic world. So, I left college and soon after I was lucky enough to get hired at a small construction company doing a variety of tasks in a variety of trades. I learned a lot over those three years. I later moved to San Diego and eventually heard about the HVAC program that Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air was offering to prospective students. I jumped on the opportunity.
Right now, I am a maintenance technician at Anderson PHA. I have been with the company since January 2021. I attended the 90-day pre-apprenticeship program and was offered a full-time position upon completion.
What I like most about this work is the troubleshooting aspect of the job. Every day is a challenge and I’m constantly learning something new. I’ve been lucky to have some good teachers and techs who’ve helped me along the way.
My plan is to become the best technician I can be. I acquired my Universal EPA certification; my goal is to become NATE-certified. I am going to get some years under my belt before I consider starting my own business—but it is definitely part of my plans for the future.
Title: Design Consultant
I love the idea that I don’t have to sit at a desk all day. I get to travel around most of Southern California, meeting all kinds of new people who come from all different types of backgrounds and life experiences. It’s a great way to learn and experience something completely different every day.
I’ve been a design consultant for a little over two years. The exciting thing about my job is that I’m still learning. There’s always something new that pops up or a different way to perfect my craft. I think it’s a very intriguing career because there’s no way to do it perfectly; but you can improve every time you do it.
I love the job because I’m very competitive. As my income is based primarily on commission, I’m constantly striving to learn new ways to be better. If I have a great month and then an off month, it eats at me and I can take steps to learn more and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Because I’ve been with Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air and in the trade for a shorter period of time, I don’t have any crazy future plans right now. I want to keep working here for the foreseeable future to make sure I can become the best design consultant that I can be.
Title: Service Technician
What drew me to this career was watching my father succeeding in this trade and becoming a homeowner. Making customers happy made him happy.
The work I am doing now is all service and repair. I’ve been in plumbing for more than 14 years. I attended PHCC school, graduated and got certified in all types of plumbing materials as well as tools. I personally love different experiences every day—from fixing a water line to replacing a toilet to running a big gas line.
My plans for the future are to becoming a field supervisor: to go out in the field and make sure everything is done safely and correctly, as well as making sure all plumbing meets code requirements. The next step in my training will be to learn HVAC so I can be called a “triple threat”—be good in all aspects.
Title: HVAC Service Technician
What drew me to HVAC was the fascination of how buildings and houses stay cooled and heated.
I’ve been doing HVAC service/install for about nine years. I went to school for one year and learned the basics, and started working for Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air right after I turned 19. What I like about the work is that every day is different; you never know what you are going to see or who you will meet.
My plan for the future is to continue working in service but also to get into HVAC equipment sales. I have all the certificates I need at this time in my career. The end goal is to hopefully have my own small HVAC business.
Title: HVAC Maintenance Technician
The skilled trades provide a reliable, long-term source of income and continuing education. I was drawn to a career that uses my affinity toward problem-solving and my mechanical ability.
I identify and prevent common issues with residential heating and air-conditioning equipment through planned maintenance. After completing a three-month apprenticeship program, I advanced to working on my own. I enjoy traveling around the county and knowing that no two days are ever the same.
Eventually, I see myself working in commercial/industrial refrigeration, but my current goal is advancing into residential service and repair. A NATE certification would facilitate my career advancement. I have no plans to pursue starting my own business; I am happy to be employed by a reliable, resilient company that knows who I am and where I come from.
Title: Project Manager
I enjoy the fact that I get to meet and help all types of people every day.
I’ve been a design consultant for nearly five years. I love what I do and I’m always learning new things in this industry. Something I like about this career is that every day is different and I get a new experience.
I plan on staying in the trades and working for Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air long-term. I want to continue to grow in my position and take care of customers.
Title: Install Apprentice
What drew me to pick this career is that it is high-demand, fast-paced and fun.
The work I’m doing right now is HVAC install. I have nearly two years working in HVAC and I’ve learned how to install a full furnace and the more technical side of the job.
What I like the most about the work is that I’m doing something different every day, the work is fun and the people I work with make it better.
My plan for the future is to become a lead installer. The next step in my training is to work with lineset covers, building platforms and learn the more technical side like working with 24V.
In the future, I would like to get the NATE certification and start my own company.