Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the privilege of presenting the plumbing and HVAC trades to elementary and middle school students at different San Antonio schools, and I’ve learned a great deal about the trade, the school system and myself.
Plumbing is a trade constantly evolving due to technological advances. So, our job is NEVER boring. Although I went to these schools with every intention of teaching these wide-eyed youngsters they taught me a few things about the trades. Anyone CAN plumb, but not everyone WANTS to plumb. Requesting a sink in every classroom allows me to demonstrate how water gets to fixtures and where it goes down the drain. I take a Socratic approach and ask the children lots of questions about what they see and how they think it works. Asking, “Who wants to be a plumber?” always yields entertaining results. Many “ewws” and mumblings about poop remind me that most people, not just minors, view plumbers as poop wranglers. My hope is that when I leave the classroom they realize we are much more like water wranglers.
Until quite recently, it had been almost two decades since I’d stepped foot into an elementary school. I’m relieved to see the same cafeteria tables, library posters and classroom structures. Every school has required, as a visitor, I sign in and out of the front office. In some instances, I’m not allowed to present at most schools until I they have run a criminal background check with my social security number to ensure the safety of their students. The career day events have all been highly organized, mostly by the school counselor and manned by a combination of school staff, employees, parents and students. At one school, in particular, I met a bright young lady named Regina. Regina was a captain of the patrols (as was I at the tender age of 10) and represented her school with great aplomb. Of all the classes I’ve presented to in the past few months, I have only presented to one class with a male teacher. Male teachers, like female plumbers, are a minority and considered a “non-traditional occupation” (defined as an occupation with less than 25% of a gender represented).
This passionate pursuit of mine to bring the trades to popularity with young people has been an enriching process, to say the least. I’ve met a great deal of people who have remembered our conversations or my presentations and used Mr. Plumber Plumbing Co. for their plumbing needs. More than that, it’s taught me how needed the trades are in our communities and how underserved our young population is if we fail to present the trades as a career path for them.