BOSTON (CBS) –A slender teenage girl with braces on her teeth, Jaylene Colon may not be what you expect in a plumber, but she’s at the top of her class at Bristol Plymouth Regional Technical School.
She’s a senior and is ready to get to work. “It’s a family thing, my grandfather was a plumber. My brother is a plumber,” she said.
Jaylene is as good with the books as she is with plumbing tools. She would like to go to college to manage large construction projects someday. But, this honors student wants to earn money to help pay for college rather than be saddled with student loans. “I don’t want to be paying for that until I’m 40 or 50,” she said.
Classmate Anthony Moynihan is learning HVAC systems. He’s also thinking about a degree down the road. “I want to go to college at some point, but when I have more money,” he said.
These students know learning a trade will give them a skill that will always be in demand, which is particularly true in this region, according to Jim Rooney of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “It’s one of the fastest growing sectors of labor last year,” he said. “These are good-paying jobs. We are talking about $75,000 to $100,000 and that’s before overtime.”
But trade schools are not necessarily putting enough workers into the pipeline, just ask Mike Stewart of Heritage Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical Services of Auburn, New Hampshire. Their trucks even advertise the need for workers. “It’s a huge problem,” he said.
That’s why the company is training their own workers and they come from all walks of life. “We have individuals here that have come over from former automobile mechanics to working in a kitchen. We even have one gentleman who started here after 20-plus years in the newspaper industry,” he said.
Jason Gilligan has been with Heritage nearly two years and he’s still sharpening the skills he believes will always be relevant. “Every home has mechanical components that need to be addressed. Once you have a skill in a trade, you have a job,” he said.