Apprentice Profiles: Boilermakers Local 627 Apprentices Look to Their Futures
First-year Apprentices Emerson Jackson and Patrick Lopez, and new Journeyman TJ Clark, each took different paths to the Boilermakers Local 627 apprenticeship program. Yet they share an appreciation for what the program has taught them about taking pride in quality work, trusting their fellow brothers and sisters, and building confidence as they take on new challenges and learn new skills.
When asked to describe his first experiences as a boilermaker, Journeyman TJ Clark compares it to a “baptism by fire.” He explains, “I had never worked with a power tool until I started the program.”
As a young adult, TJ earned minimum wage while working in the home healthcare sector with no clear path to a successful future. His grandfather was a pipefitter and his father is a boilermaker, so he knew that a career in the trades would provide opportunities. He applied to the Boilermakers Local 627 Apprentice Program and worked as a helper for one year before becoming indentured.
Like TJ, many Apprentices grew up with parents and grandparents working in the trades.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said Emerson Jackson III, first-year Apprentice and second-generation boilermaker, when talking about his father. Emerson grew up hearing stories about his father’s work in power plants and about all of the places he’s been. While in high school, Emerson was in the Northland Pioneer College’s NAVIT program in Holbrook. The two-year program provided a solid foundation in welding, and enabled him to get into the Apprentice Program faster and at a higher pay bracket with benefits.
First-year Apprentice Patrick Lopez is the first one in his family to go into the trades. He was in the welding technology program at Central Arizona College, which emphasizes the skills needed in the oil and gas industry. While at CAC, he met a boilermaker. That prompted his research into the profession and led him to the Boilermaker 627 Apprentice Program. The training center gave him credit for the hours of training he received in college and that’s helping him move through the Apprentice Program faster.
When asked about what they gain by being in a union Apprentice program, TJ, Emerson and Patrick all talk about the emphasis on safety, as well as the opportunities to learn from highly skilled, experienced boilermakers on the job site and in the training center.
“I learned that anything can happen because it’s dangerous work and you have to be prepared for the unexpected,” TJ said.
They also talk about the benefits of being part of a brotherhood.
“We’re a team and we take care of each other,” said Emerson. “If you’re struggling, your brother is there to help you out. If you’re on the road, the brotherhood gives you connections, places to stay, and places to eat.”
TJ, Emerson and Patrick have their eyes on their futures and know what they’d like to accomplish as Journeymen boilermakers.
“Upon graduation, I want to utilize the skills I’ve learned as a boilermaker and become a certified welding inspector,” said Patrick.
Emerson plans to expand his skill set by taking advantage of every opportunity presented to him. He also is committed to building a secure future for him and his daughter.
TJ’s skills, knowledge and excellent performance in the Boilermakers 627 Apprentice Program earned him an invitation to this spring’s Western States Apprentice Competition where he will compete for one of eight spots at the national competition.
“My dad says it will be 15 years before I’ll be a pristine boilermaker,” TJ said. But he’s determined to do much more. He wants to get a college education to complement his boilermaker skills and pursue opportunities in safety, quality control, and welding inspection. Eventually, he’d like to move into management as a general foreman or project manager. He’s even become interested in union leadership and wants to be more active on the political side at the local and national levels.
“It’s all there and you just have to be willing to do it,” TJ adds. “Put in the hard work and go for it.”
TJ, Emerson and Patrick are shining examples of the quality Apprentices that the Boilermakers Local 627 program attracts to continue the boilermaker brotherhood’s legacy.