When Mike Lydon was about twelve years old, he began accompanying his father, who was a welding teacher, to work on Saturdays at the Local 12 Training Center. Many decades later, Lydon is following in his dad’s footsteps.
With the region’s construction industry booming and demand growing for union plumbers, Local 12’s Training Center has been expanding. To accommodate an enrollment that has surged to more than 300 apprentices, the center brought Lydon on in August as its fourth instructor.
His father was instrumental in sending Lydon on the long journey that eventually landed him back at the Training Center. In addition to teaching apprentices the art and science of welding, Jim Lydon, Sr. was a Local 12 plumber and served as a business agent for the union in the 1990s. Mike says that his dad was nurturing and supportive and didn’t so much push him into the trade as gently persuade him.
After going through the apprentice program, himself, Lydon went to work for GBPCA contractor J.C. Cannistraro. He worked his way up to foreman and remained with the company for 20 years.
Lydon would follow happenings at the Training Center and developed friendships with many of its instructors. “In the back of my mind, I always thought becoming an instructor might be something to pursue,” he says. But he followed other paths. For example, Lydon has been the plumbing inspector in the town of Abington for the past 25 years.
In 2006, he joined his brother, Jim Lydon, Jr., to form The Lydon Companies. Jim had already established Lydon Millwright Services, and Mike came on board to expand the business and develop a mechanical services division. He says his father was thrilled to see his sons working together and to see the union-affiliated company working with Local 12.
As with many businesses, the Great Recession threw a curveball at The Lydon Companies, and the shop eventually closed. Mike went back to work as a foreman for J.C. Cannistraro in 2014. While there, he led teams working on projects for Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. He also became the company’s apprentice coordinator. In that capacity, Lydon worked closely with Local 12’s Training Center as a liaison representing the apprentices working on all of the large contractor’s many projects.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with apprentices,” Lydon says. “The position was a natural for me.”
When the Training Center put out the call for a new instructor earlier this year, Lydon seized the opportunity. He initially taught classes in financial literacy for first-year apprentices and water supply for the third-year group. Lydon says that shifting gears in his career and tackling the role of a teacher has been enjoyable and rewarding, but also challenging.
“I have great respect for the other instructors at the center,” he notes. “It’s a lot of work.”
Lydon says that there are plenty of resources on which he can draw, such as United Association guidelines and materials, as he maps out his classes. But, he adds, instructors are given plenty of leeway to add their own input and personality as they develop and present their daily lesson plans. Lydon is getting used to incorporating technology such as electronic whiteboards, online content, and PowerPoint presentations to his classes. The goal, he says, is to keep the material fresh and engaging for apprentices. He also tries to make the classes as interactive as possible.
“Mike is rising to the challenge,” says Rick Carter, the Training Center’s director. “He is a great addition to our team and brings a wealth of real-world, hands-on experience to his classes.”
For the second session, Lydon is teaching a class about hot water to fourth-year apprentices. A second class, “Standard of Excellence,” is geared to the first-year group. Among the topics covered are the history of the labor movement and the history and evolution of Local 12.
“I’m learning myself,” Lydon says, as he dives into the material and prepares his classes. He finds the union story especially fascinating. “I love the work.”