A career in the trades is for everyone and anyone who is willing to work hard and show up on time. You can start an apprenticeship right out of high school or decide to change careers later in life. For two of our plumbing apprentices, joining the trades and becoming a plumber was not only the best option for them, but also for their family.
“I was living in Austin, Texas at the time working at a Holistic Detox facility,” explained third year plumbing apprentice Daniel Munoz. “I managed a bookstore, worked in the front office doing admissions, and also oversaw any maintenance issues that would arise. Whenever a plumbing problem presented itself, I always found it the most gratifying to solve. The seed was planted, but it wasn’t until eight years later that I would really dig deeper into my interest.”
Munoz and his wife moved up to Wisconsin and a coworker turned him on to the idea of joining a Union. They started digging a little bit deeper into what it takes to become a plumber and found information about the apprenticeship on Madison College’s website. Now, Munoz is halfway through his plumbing apprenticeship with H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection, a family run business that started in 1928.
“Everyone at Pertzborn has been incredibly supportive,” shared Munoz. “From the office, to the shop, to the field, I feel valued at this family owned company that has been around for eight years shy of a century. I am grateful to work for a shop where you don’t feel like a number. It’s a relief when you have two newborns at home.”
At the beginning of October, Munoz and his wife welcomed twin boys, Iggy and Levon, to their family.
“I knew that I wanted to have a child at some point,” explained Munoz. “We did not expect that we would be having two at once!! My wife and I had discussed having children many times before becoming a plumbing apprentice. I knew when I was taking the steps to start my apprenticeship that it was going to be a big change in my life. I knew that all the hard work I would have to endure was going to be for the benefit of my wife and our expanding family. I am very happy I chose this path and wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Joining Daniel Munoz in the new realms of parenthood is recent plumbing apprentice graduate and current Journeyworker Liz Schneider. In mid-June, Schneider and her husband welcomed a baby girl, Violet, to their family. With Schneider’s new titles of Journeyworker and mom, she will be supporting her growing family and her husband will be a stay-at-home dad.
“What means the most is being able to support my family,” explained Schneider. “Having only one parent working and the other getting to stay home isn’t something everyone can manage. Some can’t even manage with each parent having only one job. Getting the time to come home and have nights and weekends and holidays to spend with the people I love is priceless.”
Similar to Munoz, Schneider did not start her plumbing career right out of high school.
She explained, “I had been working eight years at a sandwich shop and hating it for quite a while, but not knowing what other options were really out there besides another service job, or a new career with a bunch of schooling I couldn’t afford, I felt pretty stuck. When my friend going into the ironworker’s union told me all about apprenticeships and paid training, it sounded like the perfect solution.”
When Schneider’s friend told her about the many union trades available, she looked up the different careers available on Btrades.com. The website showed her the different trades, the requirements, and a basic outline of what each trade entailed. After doing her research, Schneider found plumbing the most interesting.
“It’s easier than you think, but still requires hard work,” Schneider advised for those interested in a career in plumbing. “If you’ve got a good attitude and show up on time everyday willing to learn, that’s all you really need. Also, there’s a lot of talk right now of ‘essential workers.’ Plumbers have always been and always will be essential to the health and safety of our communities. It’s a good feeling to go to work everyday knowing you make a difference in the world.”
Schneider completed her plumbing apprenticeship with 1901 Inc. and continues to work there are a Journeyworker. Similar to H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection, 1901 Inc. is a family owned business. Paul Christensen purchased the company in 2011 and has created a family atmosphere amongst his employees.
“Some people might think a bunch of guys in the construction world wouldn’t give two hoots about (my pregnancy and newborn daughter), but everyone has been so supportive,” explained Schneider. “Through the pregnancy, everyone was very helpful. When I first reached the point when I couldn’t lift everything I once could, I’d barely have to ask, and someone would be there to help. Everyone got in on (a baby pool), and it was a lot of fun. Probably the most surprising thing was requests for baby pictures. I didn’t figure guys would care about that, but many of them have families of their own and love to share. I can’t say enough about how great 1901 has been to me and my family!”
Along with the family atmosphere that both Munoz and Schneider work in at their respective companies, the fact that they work for union contractors that ensure good wages, health benefits, and a pension for all employees has been a huge benefit.
“I can honestly say that this is the highest hourly wage I have ever had,” explained Munoz. “Money is not everything, but having a well-paying job is important for our communities to thrive and for the future of our country. I had a choice, initially, when I made the decision to go for a plumbing apprenticeship, Union or Non-Union. The choice was simple for me. Labor Unions have been the forefront of worker’s rights throughout history. I went from having no clue what I was going to be doing in five years, to having a pension, knowing what my wage was going to be each year, and having a goal in just a matter of months.”
For Schneider, the benefits of being a plumber and being able to support her family while her husband gets the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad has given her the peace of mind that she never knew she would need.
“I had no idea how much I could worry about one little human,” said Schneider. “Being a new parent though, she’s pretty much always on my mind now and I don’t know how I could leave her with anyone but my husband right now. Daily, I get a little less worried, like I’ve stopped getting up in the middle of the night just to make sure she’s still breathing (mostly). Especially in the middle of this pandemic, I would not be comfortable leaving her anywhere else.”
Schneider is thankful for her entire “work family” at not only 1901 Inc., but also her business agent and everyone a Plumbers Local 75, and all the trades members she worked with while pregnant. As Munoz is still feeling the exhaustion of being a new parent to twins, he is also thankful for everyone at work being so supportive.
Whether you are young and ready to start your career right out of school, or you are older and looking for a change, a career in the trades may be exactly the right fit.
“It’s never too late to start an apprenticeship,” explained Munoz. “Although I wish I would have started my apprenticeship before my 30’s, there are people of all ages who have chosen the path of the trades. Age, gender, race, makes no difference. Apprenticeship programs are for anyone and they are for the benefit of everyone.”
For more information on apprenticeships, visit the following websites:
Mechanical Industries Center’s website http://www.mechanicalindustries.org/
Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards’ website https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/apprenticeship/
Plumbers Local 75’s website https://www.plumbers75.com/
Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association’s website http://www.wipipetrades.org/