Their journey to Local 12
Periodically in The Pipeline we profile Local 12 apprentices to discover the path that led them into the trade and the union. Who and/or what inspired them? Why did they decide to choose plumbing as a career? Why did they want to join Local 12? This issue we showcase two members at either end of their apprentice experience: Jenna LeClerc recently graduated high school and is a first-year apprentice, while Brendan Willett is in his fifth year and will be working towards his journeyman license.
“It’s not so unusual for women to go into the trade now,” says Jenna LeClerc, a first-year apprentice who joined Local 12 in September. Thanks to many pioneers who came before her and changing attitudes in the industry and society, young women such as LeClerc feel empowered to pursue plumbing.
Her dad is a carpenter, and LeClerc says that she was always interested in his projects around the house. She assisted him sometimes and remembers realizing at a young age that she wanted to do work like her father. A good student, LeClerc found that she was more of a tactile learner. “I understood more and caught on faster when I worked with my hands,” she says. “I really like accomplishing something and having something tangible to show for my efforts at the end.”
For high school, she followed her older sister and attended Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School. While there, LeClerc studied many topics, including culinary arts and dental assisting. “I wasn’t necessarily looking at plumbing,” she notes. “But I really enjoyed the class and found the trade intriguing. It turned out to be my favorite. I wanted to learn more.”
Having found her niche, LeClerc ran with it. Taking advantage of Essex Tech’s work-study program, she spent the last two years of high school working in the field with a plumbing company based out of Gloucester. The young student quickly found herself putting in water heaters, fixing leaks, installing sinks, and doing other residential service work. She also got to work on complete house remodels as well as some commercial construction jobs, which gave her a taste of larger projects.
It may be more common for women to enter the trade now, but some people are still surprised by the notion–especially when they see a young female show up at their house to help install a vanity. “Some thought I must have been the daughter of the boss,” LeClerc says, recalling the reactions she got when she was 16 years old and started working with the plumbing company. “They were shocked that I was a student and so young.”
LeClerc says that she didn’t know much about unions in general, but one of her Essex Tech teachers told her about Local 12 and encouraged her to apply. She was accepted and, after graduating high school in June, the 18-year-old became a member of the union.
Since joining, LeClerc has been working for American Plumbing and Heating. Among the projects she has worked on are the 41-story One Post Office Square office tower in Boston, the multi-use, seven-story building at 100 Hood Park Drive in Charlestown, and the renovation of hospital patient rooms at CHA Somerville Campus. LeClerc says she is enjoying the work, especially the pace at which she and the other plumbers have been working.
As for Local 12’s training center, she says it is obvious that the instructors really like what they are doing and that they are there to help the apprentices. “They want us to succeed,” LeClerc adds.
When she made the decision to become a union plumber, her family and friends were all excited, supportive, and happy for her. “Even though my dad is a carpenter, he is thrilled that I am pursuing plumbing. He told me it was something he wanted to do.” LeClerc says. “Now, we are a well-rounded family with him doing carpentry and me doing plumbing.”