As is the case for a lot of people, Erica Dingman’s career path zigged and zagged. She spent a few years dabbling in animation, customer service, and other areas, but none of them were quite right.
She’d always loved taking things apart and learning how they worked, so the trades seemed like a natural fit. After overcoming a slight hesitation that she might be too old to start something new, she enrolled in the plumbing pre-apprenticeship training at Herzing College.
It turned out to be a great decision. Erica was so successful that she was even asked to be a teaching assistant in the program.
How did she find the whole experience? Keep reading to find out.
Q. Can you share a bit about your background? What were you doing before Herzing?
Erica: Right out of high school I thought I wanted to be an animator, so I went to school for animation. But as soon as I wasn’t making anything for myself, I got bored. It wasn’t fun anymore.
I did a little bit of prop building for film and TV. That was fun, but it was unpaid, so I had to move on.
I worked at a convenience store for a while, and then I was a client care representative for a financial firm. I sat at a desk for two years and realized I didn’t want to keep doing that.
Q. What inspired you to choose the plumbing program?
Erica: A friend of mine who is an electrician was talking about how the trades need people. That sounded pretty interesting. I looked at getting into electrical, but I didn’t hear back from the place that I contacted.
Plumbing had always interested me because I want to know how things work. I want to be able to fix things, and I want to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to have to call someone for repairs.
So then I filled out a request form for Herzing, and I got a call within an hour. The course happened to be starting a week later, and I said yeah, let’s do this. I’m ready to start a new career.
Q. How was the instructor and the general class vibe?
Erica: It was really good, really positive. My one instructor had been in the trades for 30 or more years, and hearing the experiences that he had on the job was great.
Q. What was the best part of the training?
Erica: The hands-on work was the best part. I like taking things apart and learning how things work. Whenever I get that feeling of oh, I understand this and I can keep going forward with this information, that’s exciting. And I always felt that I understood what was going on.
I’d done some welding in high school, so handling a torch came easy to me. In welding, we had oxyacetylene torches to cut metals—they’re a little more powerful. But in plumbing you use acetylene B tanks just to heat copper up enough for the solder to melt. I was used to the torches where you’re melting and cutting at the same time.
I would watch the teacher, and he’d show us what to do, and I would catch on pretty quickly. I just need to be shown once, and then I kind of get it. But it still took practice to make it look cleaner and make sure there were no gaps.
Q. You took on a bit of a leadership role, right?
Erica: Yes. The other students would come to me with questions because I knew what I was doing. Then I was asked to be a teaching assistant for the evening course. That was a nice refresher and I do like helping out. I might be doing that for the next course as well.
Q. What are the most important skills you came away with?
Erica: Learning the rough-in heights of the drains. Soldering correctly. The safety part of it was also key. I learned how to do things properly and up to code.
We tested all of our plumbing, meaning that if you put some soldered copper together or glued ABS pipe, you tested that there were no leaks. If you did find that there was air or water coming through, then you learned how to fix it.
It’s funny—as a kid, I never thought about the pipes in my own house. So when I went to visit my parents this last time, I went through and analyzed how it was all put together. Now I can pinpoint the main stack, and I see the way the house was built. That’s cool.
Q. Are you working now?
Erica: Not in the trade. The biggest hindrance is that I only have my learner’s right now because I never really needed my driver’s licence and I kept putting it off. And a lot of places want you to have your G so you can drive their equipment.
The friend who’s in electrical will often be assigned to one building for a few months. So I’m hoping maybe I could get something like that, where I just need to make it to one site for a few months.
Herzing has been really supportive. Christine Azevedo helps all the students with their resumes and shows you how to apply and stuff. There’s a lot of help.
Q. What would you ultimately like to do?
Erica: I’d like to do commercial. New builds would be nice. Starting from nothing and creating it all is really exciting.
Down the road, it would be nice to have my own company. If I ended up doing home maintenance and repair, I think there would be a need for women, because some women are not comfortable with a strange man in their house.
Q. What advice would you give someone who was considering the plumbing pre-apprenticeship at Herzing?
Erica: Take it seriously. Show up to class. Bring your tools.
Have humility. I noticed a pattern of students that had some construction experience being like, yeah, I’ve done that before, I’m good. And then I’d see their work and it wasn’t up to code. You need humility in order to be corrected on anything.
You also need to have a plan before you start, or you’re going to waste a lot of material and a lot of time.
LEARN MORE ABOUT PLUMBER TRAINING AT HERZING
The pre-apprenticeship plumbing training at Herzing College is designed to give you the skills employers look for in new apprentices. The program is 24 weeks long and is offered in both Toronto and Cambridge.
Click below to get further details on the program and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!