Matthew Vega has always been interested in working with his hands. He attended a trade-focused high school, where his chosen discipline at the time was carpentry.
“I like being able to see the process of how something is made and what goes behind making it,” Vega said. “I like to be able to fix or create something with my hands – it just makes me feel good.”
Last summer, Vega landed a construction job through Building Skills New York (BSNY), and that’s where he found what he now considers his true calling: Plumbing. He said the transition from carpentry to plumbing was “crazy,” but early on something “just clicked” and he knew he was on the right path.
“You know how they say that when you find something you love, you won’t work a day in your life? I feel like that with plumbing. It doesn’t feel like work when I’m doing it,” Vega said.
“With plumbing, it is kind of like a puzzle,” he added. “You have to understand what pipe needs to connect to what pipe. You need to understand the length and how long it’s running and where does it connect to the main line. I’ve always been a person who is very visual, so I feel like that’s why it’s clicking for me.”
While he was learning a lot on the job, Vega wanted to hone his plumbing skills further and also formalize his knowledge, which he felt would help him further his construction career. So, he enrolled in the joint training program that BSNY is running with Bronx Community College, which uses the NCCER curriculum – the industry standard in skills training.
“It’s great to learn hands on,” Vega said. “But while you’re there doing it, you have somebody saying, ‘come and do this,’ and they don’t give the explanation of why it’s done and why it needs to be this way.”
“I want to know everything about it,” he continued. “I feel like getting the knowledge through books, it’s a major advantage for me.”
Right now, the coursework is all online, and Vega said he is able to complete it fairly easily while also holding down a fulltime job – even the homework. Classes cover everything from job site safety to basic tools and construction knowledge, which Vega said is helpful, but he’s really looking forward to the practical segment when students will be able to learn in person.
The virtual format presents challenges, Vegas said, but added: “I feel like it’s all on you. If you really are trying to further your career…you need to put in your effort to be able to continue to do what you want.”
Vega’s goal is to open his own plumbing business, and then expand that into buying, renovating, and flipping houses. He plans to take additional courses in the future to learn the ins and outs of home remodeling to help advance toward that dream.