Scott, 28, from New Jersey, graduated from the Refrigeration Technologies program at RSI in January 2021.
Thanks for your time Scott; how long have you been in Arizona?
I moved here in 2019; it was a restart, a reset for us. We had some personal things going on back in Jersey. So, I bought a plane ticket, came over with one bag of clothes, and went to work. A friend gave me a place to live, then after a few months I’d saved up enough money to be able to bring my family out here.
We’re glad you’re here! Tell us a little about your background.
In high school I went to regular school half the day and then vocational school for the rest. I took electrical classes at vocational school; I wanted to be an electrician. I passed that class with flying colors. So, it was years ago that I planted the seed to be an electrician; that was my dream when I was younger, but life doesn’t always go the way you want it to.
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So, what brought you to RSI?
A friend of mine was talking about going back to school. I told him, based on my vocational school experience, that going to a trade school is probably one of the best decisions you can make. You’re learning a trade, learning a life skill, and the trades always pay good money. I kept encouraging him to do it, and eventually he went to RSI. He told the school that I might be interested, so one of the advisors reached out to me. Once I got the opportunity to talk to RSI, I thought I would run with it.
What kind of work had you done in the past?
I tried joining the electrical Union back home, but that didn’t work out for various reasons. Most of my life I worked in our family restaurant, it’s been in the family for 40 years. Other than that I was a store manager at Little Caesars for a year, I was a pallet truck driver at a factory, I worked at Wal-Mart. Just to pay the bills and keep money coming in.
Why did you choose Refrigeration Technologies program?
I actually started at RSI the first time in March 2019 In the Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program and I got an electrical job at an RSI Job Fair. But in addition to working and going to class, I had a whole bunch of personal issues that hit me really bad. I ended up putting school on pause for a while.
When did you come back?
I lost my electrical job when the pandemic hit; I figured that was a good time to go back and finish my schooling at RSI. Because I’d had that electrical job out here for about a year or so, I decided to concentrate on HVAC and drop the electrical part, so I switched to the Refrigeration Technologies program.
Well done for coming back. What did you enjoy most about RSI?
Just the whole experience of learning all about something that we all use on a daily basis out here. You use your HVAC system all the time, but most people have no clue how it works. That’s what I liked about it. Now I have that knowledge of why it works, it’s easier to fix it. I can pass that knowledge on to others. I also enjoyed the hands-on time in class. I learn more doing something myself than reading about it in a book. Reading the book is helpful, but its not as helpful as getting your hands dirty.
It’s two weeks after graduation, where are you working now?
I’m an HVAC Installer with Parker and Sons. I started last week, one week after finishing school.
How did you get the job?
Jessica in Career Services helped me. When I gave her my résumé, she gave me a breakdown of everyone that was hiring. Then during my final phase, some companies came to class to talk to us and tell us they were looking for people. I threw my hat in the ring with Parkers and I was one of the graduates they selected.
Are you enjoying it?
It’s only been a week, but I feel like Parker and Sons is a good foot in the door. I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s definitely a company I’m looking forward to working for. It’s just this is literally my first job out of school in the field. I have the opportunity to progress and learn how to do everything. My goal with this company is to get as much experience as I can and see what I can get out of it. They offer cross training here too; as I have electrical and HVAC, I will try and get into some plumbing and drywalling too. There’s a whole bunch of things I can learn here. I’d like to become a ‘Jack of all Trades’.
You’re eligible to get your contractor’s license after four years in the HVAC field, so that’s something I’m looking forward to…becoming a Journeyman is also something I’m looking forward to. But in the meantime, I’m just looking to build my experience and build my portfolio. I don’t know what I don’t know yet!
Are you happy with the money you’re on?
Well, I haven’t got my first check yet, I’m waiting for that! But this will definitely be the highest check that I’ve gotten. I work 6am to 4pm, and I’ve already had some overtime in my first week.
What’s your career plan from here?
It’s kind of hard to say because I have a bigger plan, a huge, diabolical plan! I want to build my experience and funds up, so I can open my own business. I plan on opening my own Puerto Rican restaurant chain.
That’s an exciting plan. What’s your time frame?
Right now, I’m trying to collect as many trades as I can, so I can build up the funds and have everything I need to be able to start my business. I’d like to open the first one in the next five years…hopefully. I’m trying to learn whatever I can that will be beneficial to me, that will help me make money. I also want to learn everything I can, so if something were to break or happen with the restaurant, I can fix it myself.
Does that mean you’ll quit the HVAC/Electrical field?
No, I’d like to juggle all of it; have the restaurant open and keep up with the other stuff! One big company with lots of divisions!
That’s awesome! What do you enjoy most about your trade?
Just the fact that I can do something not everybody can!
Did you make some lasting connections at RSI? People you’ll stay in touch with.
Not really. I definitely met a lot of good people, but we all went our separate ways. I pretty much kept to myself a lot, I was the quiet one in the class. The only time I talked was if I wanted to understand something better. I like to absorb knowledge, then I’d write down any questions I had. I didn’t really like speaking in front of the class, so I would flood the teacher with questions from my list during a break!
What advice do you have for new students just starting out at RSI?
Keep going. Don’t give up. And don’t think there’s ever a bad question. Sometimes when you can’t solve something, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Ask questions, look at different ways of solving it. Just don’t give up – keep pushing and it will all come together eventually.
If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success story and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), and program.