Joe Cifala, 2015 Building & Property Trades Technician Graduate
Plumber’s Apprentice at T. A. Gardiner Plumbing & Heating, Inc. in Bristol, RI
"Even if you don’t like all of the trades in the Building and Property Trades program, you are not stuck. You can work in just one of them, or use multiple skills in a Property Maintenance position. Go with your gut instinct and follow it—don’t let anyone else tell you what to do. I followed mine to start my new career in plumbing. I chose MTTI for my training—it is the best place I’ve ever come to."
Before attending MTTI, I worked as a Pre-School Teacher. I grew up with a lot of kids around me, so I thought I’d give teaching a shot. I started in High School and taught for a few years afterwards. I really liked teaching—but I wanted a career working “hands-on” in a trade.
First I tried college courses, but it wasn’t for me—I’m more of a hands-on person, not a book learner. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.
My girlfriend (now fiancée) suggested I consider a trade school.
I searched on the internet for “trade schools” and MTTI came up. Afterwards, I saw billboards along the roadway, which featured MTTI’s programs. I visited some other schools; MTTI was more affordable and offered more hands-on learning.
I met with one of the Building Trades instructors at MTTI. I was still unsure about what I wanted to train to do. Because I am good with my hands, I thought I might like to become a plumber.
In addition to plumbing, the program covers carpentry, electrical, an introduction to HVAC.
We started with carpentry. Initially, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t very good at measuring, but the instructors, Pat and Gregg, were patient and helpful.
I was also afraid of heights—so learning ladder safety meant I had to face that fear. Pat was serious about safety, but he made learning fun. He made us stand on the ladder until we were not so afraid. It didn’t make me less afraid of heights, but I did learn that I could do it. Last week, on a job for the Plumbing and Heating Company where I now work, I was on a ladder all day. You have to get the job done—so you do what you have to do.
As I gained confidence in my skills, I started to like school and the trades we were learning. I made friends, some of whom I’ve stayed in touch with after graduation.
I was hired at T.A. Gardiner Plumbing & Heating shortly after completing the program.
I went into the interview without a license or any related work experience, except my training at MTTI. They took me on for a trial period.
After the trial, they decided to keep me working for the company. They sent me to get my Apprentice card. They also sent me to an Apprenticeship training program a couple of nights a week, at the Aquidneck Learning Center in Newport. It takes four years in the Apprenticeship training plus my work experience to qualify to take the Journeyman Licensing exam. I’ve completed one semester and will start the next semester in September.
As an Apprentice, I’m getting a lot of on-the-job training, going out every day with a licensed plumber.
We repair and install water heaters and boilers. Installing plumbing in new homes is easier than repairing plumbing in older homes—old pipes may be corroded, or not level or broken. New plumbing is like a puzzle—when you are installing a drain, you have to figure out where the fittings go, so that everything lines up and it drains without leaking.
Even when I go to the supply house to get a part—like a fitting—I learn something. Two days ago I didn’t know anything about that fitting, but now I do. When I am a Journeyman, working on my own in the future, I will be well-prepared to do all types of plumbing and boiler jobs.
I ask the Licensed Plumbers a lot of questions.
They show me what they are doing and teach me how to do things. I’m also meeting a lot of people in other trades. Especially when we work with other companies on new construction, I learn from the electricians and carpenters. When you are in the trades, you have to know a little of everything.
I learned so much at MTTI! I came in with very little background, and came out able to do everything we were taught.
I went home and built a sandbox for my niece and nephew. After I become a Journeyman, I will continue to use the skills I learned in the Building Trades program in my plumbing career--for example, electrical skills to wire boilers.
I don’t regret the time I spent teaching pre-school. At the time teaching felt right. But I wish I had come to MTTI directly out of High School—I’d be a licensed plumber now.
My advice to anyone thinking about the Building & Property Trades program is that even if you don’t like all of the trades in the program, you are not stuck.
You can work in just one of them, or use multiple skills in a Property Maintenance position. Go with your gut instinct and follow it—don’t let anyone else tell you what to do. I followed mine to start my new career in plumbing. I chose MTTI for my training—it is the best place I’ve ever come to.
Company information: Tim the plumber has been in business since 1989. T.A. Gardiner offers quality plumbing & heating services.
T.A. Gardiner Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
15 Gooding Ave, Unit 5
Bristol, RI 02809
401-253-3784 - Office
401-254-8979 - Fax