Luis Reyna, 2021 Building & Property Trades Technician Graduate
Maintenance Technician at Picerne Real Estate Group
19 years old, Luis took a leap of faith when, on very short notice, he re-located from Kansas to Providence, RI, to start school in MTTI’s Building & Property Trades program. Arriving without having seen the school—and before he had his teacher interview—Luis enrolled. He successfully completed the program, landed a great job, and made Providence his new home.
I grew up in a small town in Kansas with a population of less than 1,000.
I wanted more opportunities than I would have had, living in an area with only a few hundred people. Before coming to MTTI, I worked in Kentucky, for a construction subcontractor. I liked the work and gained experience in remodeling homes. I also did side jobs on my own. After that, I went back to Kansas to work a short while with an irrigation & landscape company. But I wanted to get back to construction.
I learned about MTTI’s Trades programs from my girlfriend.
My girlfriend and I met in Long Island, New York, where I completed my senior year in high school. We stayed in touch and saw each other whenever I visited my father, who is stationed in the military in NY. When she enrolled at Johnson and Wales University in Providence to study finance, my girlfriend sent me information about trade schools in the area. I was interested in MTTI’s Building & Property Trades Technician program because it is so diverse—I could gain skills in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and even learn some HVAC.
Contacting MTTI, I learned the Building Trades program was fully enrolled until January 2021.
I was placed on a waiting list for classes starting during 2020. A week before the July class started, Amy, the Admissions Rep, called me. She told me that a spot had opened; she asked if I wanted to take it.
I drove 30 hours from Kansas to take that spot and join the class.
I hadn’t seen the school; only a screenshot of the Building Trades program information from the school website that my girlfriend had sent me. I hadn’t yet had a tour or an instructor interview—I just showed up. The first day of class I felt nervous and a little intimidated; I didn’t even know the names of my instructors.
Living in Providence was a big change after growing up in a small town in Kansas.
The culture here is very different. People in Kansas, or in the rural area of Kentucky, where I had worked for a while, don’t venture far from home. When the pandemic was declared, no one there wore masks. Starting school at MTTI, we wore masks all day. It sometimes made working hands-on more difficult; but working in teams at school—or living in a more densely populated city—wearing masks made sense to help prevent the spread of COVID.
My instructors, Pat Church and Don Deforges, were awesome.
Later, Jake Guzman joined us; he was a good influence, motivating me to do good things with my life and accomplish my goals. Don helped me grow up and become more professional. Pat had tons of trade experience and stories; he was always willing to teach and I was always willing to learn. Even when we had to have some classes virtually on Zoom during the pandemic, they made me want to learn. Some teachers just give you a book; at MTTI the instructors really care about sharing their knowledge and experience with their students.
The instructors inspired me to have a better work ethic, and to see life in a new way.
I came to school with a big head, believing that I knew a lot. During the first class, we were taught to read a tape measure. I already knew how to read a tape measure, so I was skeptical about whether I would learn anything new in the program. But OSHA Safety training and ladder safety training (who knew that you should have 3 rungs above the roofline?) or how to carry boards when climbing the ladder—was new information for me. Working in construction in Kentucky, we hadn’t learned much about safety.
I recognized that the way in which I had been installing siding wasn’t the most correct way.
I thought I knew all about carpentry and drywall, because I had worked in residential remodeling. Don taught me to work smarter, showing me the easiest way to do each job correctly. What my boss in Kentucky had shown me wasn’t technically wrong—there were just better ways to do things. For example, when trimming doors and windows, a quick way is to bend and nail the trim. Don showed us how to make individual strips for each side, and cut the ends so that they fit together. Don’s way looks 100% better than bending the trim—and keeps out water, plus insulates the door or window.
When I crafted a table using only hands-tools, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Don made sure we had all of the right tools and information to do any job, but he didn’t hold our hands. He didn’t tell us exactly how to make the tables. He showed us how to use the tools and the steps to follow. Then he left it open for us to design and construct them in our own style. Each table was different, but they all reflected our hard work in making them. For the first time, I felt real pride in my craftsmanship.
We built a small house module from the bare platform up.
I had re-modeled houses, but didn’t have a good sense of how a house was constructed. Pat taught us how to frame the module. We put up the walls, then the siding, and finally the roof. We installed electrical panels, outlets and lights, then sinks and toilets. Each team designed and built an interior archway connecting the rooms, and custom finished a room with paint and wallpaper. It’s a lot of work, but it is amazing how quickly the work goes.
I wanted to work in a position where I could do a little bit of everything.
Erin, The Career Services Specialist for the program, helped me write a resume and search for a job. I am grateful to her for connecting me with Picerne Real Estate Group. On the date I was scheduled to begin internship, I was already hired and starting to work in a full-time Maintenance Technician position. My first day, they toured me through all of the properties—then handed me a lot of keys. I’d just finished classes at school—I hadn’t even officially graduated. I felt overwhelmed. I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I think I know more that I actually do.’ I had to take a moment to just breathe.
Thanks to the Building Trades program Instructors, I can do this job.
I use all of the skills I learned at school to repair the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems in the apartments. Even more important—Don taught us how to use our heads to think critically and solve problems. I’m confident in my abilities because we learned more than just how to do the work. We learned how to think about the best way to do each job.
Picerne Real Estate Group is a great company to work for.
At Picerne, I am part of a team. I have a good supervisor, who has shown me a lot; I am building on the skills I learned at school. Having a good boss makes me want to get up in the morning and go to work. Where I grew up in Kansas, people had pretty similar backgrounds. People living in the couple of hundred apartments managed by Picerne Real Estate Group in Rhode Island come from many different backgrounds. I enjoy talking each day with the residents, and hearing their stories.
Moving 1,800 miles to attend school at MTTI has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
At 19 years old, arriving in a new city, far from home and on my own, I wasn’t always sure I could make it work. In the beginning, I struggled to adapt to a culture very different from the small town in which I grew up. It wasn’t easy to support myself while attending school. But now I have a job I really like. I have a career with a good future and am making a decent wage. I have my own apartment and a new puppy. Even though making a new life has sometimes been uncomfortable, it has been well worth it.
I don’t yet know what direction I want to go in the trades.
I just know that I want to learn a lot. I’m moving forward in my life a lot more quickly than if I had remained in Kansas—or if I hadn’t gone to school. If you choose to attend the Building & Property Trades program, take advantage of the time you have here. It goes by really fast. There’s a lot of information--you have to be willing to pay attention and learn—but you can learn a lot in that short amount of time. The teachers at MTTI are great guides to help you prepare to work in a new trade and make a better life. The school and the instructors at MTTI really do set you up for success.