If you really want to get the scoop on something, you go straight to an inside source if you can… so that’s what we’re doing for you today. The Laborers Apprenticeship program might already seem like a good fit for you, but it’s a big choice, so you should do some homework before you commit. Part of that includes hearing from someone who’s already in the program.
To help out, we sat down with Tony Hanna of Everett, who has been in the program for several years, and asked him to provide an inside perspective of what it’s like for him.
How long have you been in the Laborers Apprenticeship program?
I started fours years ago as a member of Local 292 in Everett. When I first began working in construction, I was working for a non-union contractor. I didn’t like it. There wasn’t a whole lot of respect, and they weren’t concerned about training you so you could do the job properly. They would tell you to do something and then expect you to do it even though you weren’t properly trained. That was frustrating.
In September 2014, I talked to a buddy who was a union operating engineer. He suggested checking into the Laborers Apprenticeship program, and he set it up for me to attend an orientation at Local 292. After passing the pre-construction training, I started out as an apprentice working for Gary Merlino Construction up until May 2017, when I put my construction career on temporary hold to become a member of the Army Reserve. I left Merlino to attend Army training from May through December of 2017. In January of this year, my former foreman asked me to come work for Marshbank Construction as a pipe layer, and I’ve been with them since then.
What’s your typical day at work like?
It’s pretty busy. On a pipe crew, sometimes I’ll be the top man or sometimes I’ll be in the ditch doing it myself. The top man’s job is to help keep the process running smoothly. I make sure pipe is ready go into the ground. I make sure the rigging is kept up. If we’re shoring, my job is to make sure we have the right jacks in place. Other duties include putting up fence or moving the ladder forward. I run the jumping jack on the backfill, or I’m cutting pipe or mudding the pipe into the structure. If I’m in the ditch, I’m watching for unmarked utilities, checking grade, laying the pipe. We lay ductile iron pipe that’s used for fresh water and storm water.
What’s it like on the job site?
The days go by very fast. There are four guys on my crew. The more pipe we get into the ground the better. If we’re ahead of schedule, that takes the stress level down. Our crew has been together since the beginning of the job that began in January. We’re all about the same age, and we also like to hang out together outside of work.
What do you find most appealing about being a Laborer?
I like working with my hands, and I like working outside. I grew up in Washington and actually like the rain, so working in construction and being a Laborer is a nice fit.
You’re in a classroom session this week. What class are you taking?
I’m in the asbestos class, and it’s one week long. We’re learning how to protect ourselves when handling a hazardous material like asbestos. It was used in so many things in the past, so we learn how to wear Tyvek suits and respirators, and how to set up a room for decontamination. We learn how to clean up after the job is finished and prevent the spread of contaminants.
So, you’re staying in the dorm this week while you complete your class. What’s that like?
Staying in the dorm lets me concentrate on school, so I focus on going to class, then I eat, go the gym, then kick back and relax before bed. Being able to stay at the training center makes it easier to attend class. I don’t have to travel home every day, and that saves money. Plus, I get three meals a day.
Have you found a niche you enjoy? Is there a particular type of laborer work you want to get into?
I’ve been doing mostly pipe work since becoming a Laborer, and I do some grade-checking. I like being on the pipe crew; I like the work and I plan to stay with pipe work into the foreseeable future.
Are there any challenges you’ve encountered as an apprentice?
I’ve been lucky. It’s been a positive experience since the first day I became an apprentice. I also appreciate working with the Journeymen who know the trade and are good mentors.
Off work, what kinds of activities do you enjoy the most?
Since I’m a member of the Army Reserve, I go to the gym regularly to stay in shape and stay active. I also like to run, work out, hike, ride my dirt bike and go hunting. And I’ve got my pup, too. My dog goes everywhere with me. Of course, I had to leave him at home while I’m in class this week.