A Second Chance with PHCC, by Tracy Threlfall, EVP with Nicholas Matteson, Iron Mechanical

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Nicholas Matteson 1Nicholas Matteson is a 34 year old 4th year plumbing apprentice with Iron Mechanical, Inc.  Born into a troubled background, Nick came from a broken home, where drugs and chaos were a persistent problem.  Echoing the family dynamic, he became hooked on drugs himself.  Kicked out of high school, Nick wound up homeless, living on the streets in Sacramento.  As a result of this lifestyle, he became incarcerated.  In 2010 he was released from jail, and struggled to find a job.  He knocked on a lot of doors, and found dead end after dead end.

A fortuitous meeting would change the course of Nick’s life.  While making $80 day at a tattoo shop, living in a less than desirable apartment, he was introduced to Terry Risse, Owner of Iron Mechanical, Inc.  Risse saw potential in Nick, and offered him a plumbing apprenticeship with his company, Iron Mechanical.  A condition of employment was that he would attend apprenticeship plumbing training with the PHCC GSA Training Facility, and commit to his trade.

Nick knew nothing about plumbing.  Matteson says, ‘People think about plumbing and they think plugged toilets.  They have no idea how the system works, how it’s put together, how it processes water, gas and waste. All the stuff you can’t see is the fun stuff.’

Willing and eager to learn, he started working with Iron Mechanical, Inc. and two months later began his apprenticeship with the PHCC GSA Training Facility.  It was at that point that, in Nick’s words, the lights came on.  Correlating his classroom training with his field work, he became a fierce learner, studying hard and becoming PHCC GSA’s top scoring student 3 years in a row.

Nicholas tells us that being a plumber is a rewarding career, that it’s different every day.  He appreciates the opportunity to be a problem solver.  Matteson states, ‘Plumbing is not just toilets and bathtubs, it’s overcoming challenges, daily obstacles, and using my knowledge and skill in a meaningful way.  We’re not just plumbers, we’re problem solvers.  I love working with my hands, and appreciate the many different aspects, the different types of piping for example, and not burning out with boring repetition every day.’  One of his joys in working in our trade is to work a project from the beginning in a dirt field and seeing it through, turning on the last installed sink and flushing the last toilet.

When asked about the impact on his life of going into the plumbing trade and reaping the benefits of apprenticeship training, he becomes visibly moved. When asked what it has done for his family Nick is emphatic… his response, ‘It gave me a family’. Because of his financial success, Matteson has the life he always wanted.  He married his wife Carly, and today is the father of two children, 3 and 9 years old.  They realized their dream of home ownership in March of 2015 and Matteson was proud that he was able to buy his wife her dream car, a Mini-Cooper.  Because of his work with Iron Mechanical, he is able to be the sole provider, enabling his wife to stay at home and raise their children.  He provides stability for his family, and a home life denied to him as a child.  When asked what it has provided for him specifically, he stated that peace of mind and happiness, were foremost.  That no matter what, upon completion of the program, he would have his PHCC of California journeyman’s card, and that for the rest of his life, he is able to show that ‘I’m qualified, trained and will always be able to provide for my family’.

Today, Nick is a plumber’s plumber.  He is in his 4th year of plumbing apprenticeship training, and loves what he does.  He appreciates that there’s something to learn every day, and definitely sees the benefit of correlating classroom instruction with on the job training.  He has become an asset on the jobsite, helping other plumbers and has already taken a leadership role, with a foreman’s future.

Matteson finishes with, ‘Prior to my entering the plumbing trade, I dreaded each day.  Today, I wake up in the morning, and I have a purpose.  I have something important to do, and the people I work with rely on me because of my knowledge and schooling.  I’m valuable to our employer.’  When I mentioned his scholastic achievements as top scoring student, he told me, ‘Iron Mechanical believed in me, and I give back to them, by being the best for them.  By achieving status as the highest scoring student, I’m saying ‘Thanks for believing in me.  Thanks for letting me go to school.’

The PHCC GSA Training Facility operates out of Sacramento, CA and is a subsidy of PHCC of California.  The PHCC GSA Training Facility is a dually registered (state & federal) plumbing apprenticeship training program for merit shop PHCC Member Contractors.  PHCC Apprenticeship Training is available across the state as well, click here for training near you.  Testing is available year-round, and more information can be obtained by calling 916-925-7390.