Editor’s Note: LaborPress is proud to present the 2022 Outstanding Apprentice of the Year Awards for Long Island and New York City on Thursday, June 16, hosted by Teamsters Local 282 in Lake Success, NY. Today, we continue our ongoing series leading up to this year’s gala event introducing each of those fascinating and inspiring award-winners to the wider labor movement.
New York, NY – Twenty-five-year-old Zachary Parker is handling his IUOE Local 15 apprenticeship with remarkable aplomb as he nears completion of the four-year training he began in 2018. LaborPress had the opportunity to sit down with Parker to find out about his skill set, his approach to learning, and what he’s discovered about the benefits of trade unionism.
LP: What were you doing before you got into the apprentice program?
ZP: I worked in the construction industry…on the east end of Long Island. I started off doing construction when I was still in high school. My uncle owns a drilling business and we also did swimming pools. So, on the weekends aside from my high schooling, I would go and do liner changes with him or open and close pools. Then he got into the drilling business, small drilling machines. I started doing that with him on my days off. But I got into college. I was not done working with him, but I just wanted to move on and try different things. I got a job as a laborer doing civil construction, also marine construction doing bulkheads [and] piers. I did a couple of jobs on Fire Island doing the Davis Park Ferry Terminal [and] the Ocean Beach Ferry Terminal. Probably nine years now, I’ve been pretty involved in a lot of different aspects of the construction industry.
LP: What new skills are you learning in the apprentice program?
ZP: In this program, we go over everything. From the basics of repairing machines — your daily checks on machines, what to look for in the sights and sounds of operation and problem-solving. If you have issues in the field with your piece of equipment that you’re running — what to do if something happens. They’ve taught us everything from digging trenches to even just the basics of light towers, setup [and] takedown. Really, just the whole [thing]; it really just covered all aspects of our trade.
LP: Have you enjoyed being in the program?
ZP: I enjoy it. I personally try to make the best of what I’m given. So, some people look at it as, ‘I have to go to school Wednesday night’ or ‘I have to go to school on a Saturday.’ When I go to school, I try to seek the advice that they’re giving me and then apply it to my current field because I know this is gonna be the career for the rest of my life. So, I try to make the best of it and constantly push myself to be better. Try different things and just really make myself a well-rounded individual when it comes to this field. Just to make myself a great asset.
LP: What are your thoughts about being in a union?
ZP: I think it’s a great thing. I feel that it really protects the individual workers’ rights to a fair day’s pay. It keeps contractors and employees from taking advantage of their employees, and it also promotes a good brother and sisterhood environment in the workplace where everybody’s working towards a common goal.