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Students of the PHCC GSA Training Facility and PHCC Training Facilities across the state of California tell why plumbing turned out to be the right career choice for them.  With the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’, zero student loan debt and an average salary of $65k a year, isn’t it worth a moment to hear what they have to say?

Nicholas Matteson 1

A Second Chance with PHCC, by Nicholas Matteson & Tracy Threlfall, PHCC of California

Nicholas 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.  PHCC GSA Training Facility is a dually registered (state & federal) plumbing apprenticeship training program for merit shop PHCC Member Contractors.  Testing is available year-round, and more information can be obtained by calling 916-640-0910.  To find PHCC Training statewide contact 1-800-780-PHCC.


Chloe-Jackman-Photography-Caccia-Plumbing-2015-47-(ZF-2885-15899-1-047)John Williams
James Caccia & Sons Plumbing
PHCC of San Francisco & San Mateo Counties

When I think of all the reasons why I chose plumbing as a profession, I feel that when you acquire a trade skill you will have a job for life.When it comes to plumbing I learn new things just about everyday.  Also, aside from the learning aspect of the trade it’s extremely rewarding to know that I’ve positively impacted someone’s day by solving an issue. So helping people is the ultimate goal for me on any day.

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Manuel Santos JrManuel Santos Jr.
Santos and Sons
PHCC At Large Member

I joined the PHCC because I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity by my employer.  I knew of the benefits from previous students and could not pass it up.

The PHCC has greatly expanded my knowledge of plumbing and general construction.  My family and I have benefitted greatly from the PHCC apprenticeship program by allowing me to obtain greater pay rates and the knowledge to expand my plumbing career.

I greatly appreciate all I have learned from the PHCC and would recommend it to anybody interested in a career in the plumbing and heating industry.

Thank you to my employer and all those involved in the PHCC for this opportunity.

Crown - Bottom Kris Femenia 2Kristofer Femenia
Femenia and Sons Plumbing
PHCC of the Redwood Empire

I was set to become a plumber even before I graduated high school.  When I was 16 years old I had spent the summer working for the family company, and before I knew it I was working full time as an apprentice plumber.

Soon after I graduated high school at 17 years old I was enrolled in the PHCC apprentice program. I really liked the PHCC.  The program has taught me a lot of things. The program put a lot of the things I was seeing in the field into perspective.

As a fourth year student my family is very proud of me as I will become a journeyman plumber very soon. I have received a lot of hands training as well as extensive training in plumbing code. I will be able to provide a great life for my family for years to come as a result of the training I have received.

I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity. I have taken in and learned a lot over the four years as a student.  Knowledge I will never forget.

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Jacob SnodgrassJacob Snodgrass
Lunt Marymor Plumbing
PHCC of the Redwood Empire

I joined the PHCC to be a certified plumber.  I will always be employed as a plumber, there will always be a need.  The training I have received gives me higher security in the plumbing industry and affords me a higher pay rate as a certified plumber enabling me to better support my family.  The PHCC has rounded out my career in plumbing.


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Ian HumberIan Humber
Custom Plumbing
PHCC of the Redwood Empire

I started out plumbing shower valves in a small shop.  I had to ask what fittings go where and why.  I am now starting my fourth year of training with the PHCC and I am preferred over some journeyman on jobsites because of my advanced knowledge acquired in this program.

The training I’ve received and the knowledge I’ve acquired boosts not only my pay rate but also my confidence and quality of work, making me an asset no company wants to lose.


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Steven CabralSteven Cabral
George Salet Plumbing
PHCC of San Francisco & San Mateo Counties

Joining the PHCC is a good experience.  I am able to keep current on codes and keep up with all the new tools and materials that are a part of this career.

I chose plumbing because I get to meet new people on every service call I go out on. It feels good to be confident in what I do as a plumber and my customers have confidence in me to perform the work and solve their problem.

This career has given me a lot of the things I have right now. It has bought me a house, cars, a boat, and many new tools for the trade.

I highly recommend joining the PHCC for all the knowledge and experience you will need for your plumbing career.

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Cameron NewmanCameron Newman
J.R. Pierce Plumbing
PHCC of the Sacramento Valley

I got into plumbing through a family member that who worked in the trade.  I went to work with J.R Pierce as a laborer but after a few months realized I didn’t want to be a laborer all my life and I started pushing for an apprenticeship.

In July 2012 I became an apprentice in the PHCC.  Over the last few years I’ve acquired a vast amount of knowledge and understanding of the trade as it pertains to my career.  Applying this knowledge has allowed me to support my family.

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