“Plumbing really spoke to me,” says Steven Franck, explaining why he pursued a career in the trade. He recently finished his fifth and final year in Local 12’s apprentice program.
Prior to joining the union, Franck had other ideas about what he might want to do for a living. While in high school, he had a job at a computer repair clinic and discovered that he enjoyed working with his hands and building things. He also liked computers and technology and thought that he might want to work in computer science. After taking courses in the topic for one semester, however, Franck realized that college wasn’t for him.
His father, an electrician who works in telecommunications and is a member of IBEW Local 2222, talked to him about the building construction trades and encouraged him to join a union. Franck heeded the advice, starting as a laborer. But he really wanted to be a plumber and was accepted into Local 12 in 2017.
Franck started his apprenticeship working for American Plumbing and Heating and remained there throughout the five-year program. He began in the contractor’s prefabrication shop, assembling components for projects such as Emmanuel College. “It was a great learning experience,” Franck says about the prefab work, which lasted most of his first year as an apprentice.
He then moved onsite to Harvard University‘s Science and Engineering Complex, a six-story, 535,000-square-foot building that is part of the college’s growing Allston campus. During the three years Franck spent at the lab project, he installed medical gas piping, did finish work, and more. For his final year apprenticing with American, Franck was at the 44-story, 1-million-square-foot One Congress office building, part of the Bulfinch Crossing project that will replace the Government Center Garage in Boston. His work there included a commercial kitchen and bathroom groups.
According to Franck, he is grateful for the time he spent at Local 12’s training center and for its teachers. Sometimes, he would have trouble understanding what he would read in the textbooks. It would all come together, however, in the classroom.
“The instructors would demonstrate and explain everything in ways I could understand,” Franck says. “I really needed that.”
The trade has turned out to be everything he hoped it would. Franck says that he would never want to be stuck in a job doing the same thing over and over. He appreciates the variety of work that plumbing offers where every day is a new challenge. As Franck embarks on his career, he hopes to continue mixing it up by working on a range of projects, including residential, lab work, office towers, and hospitals.
“It’s good to have to stay on your toes,” says Franck.
Returning to his earlier interest in technology, Franck is also planning to learn more about computer aided design (CAD). He says that there can be a disconnect when the person writing CAD drawings is not a plumber.
“Sometimes we look at drawings and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’ It might be helpful to be able to combine my plumbing skills with CAD skills,” Franck notes.
Whatever he does, Franck says that he will do it as a union member. His wife, Dominique Cave, is also a Local 12 plumber. Her mother is in the nursing union.
“The union is a big part of our lives,” says Franck.