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 – Even as a kid, IUOE Local 14 member Victor Gutierrez was always “hands on.”

“I learned everything by doing it…you know, instead of somebody telling me to,” he tells LaborPress. “I guess that kind of pushed me towards the trades, because everything is hands on with them. I’m not really a school guy. I went to college for a semester, and it wasn’t for me. I joined the Marines shortly thereafter.”

Victor Gutierrez at the controls of an excavator.

Gutierrez served in the US Marine Corps. for nearly a decade where he deployed to Africa after enlisting in 2009. But his military career also led him to US Air Force where he became a Staff Sergeant and deployed to Kuwait.

“That’s where I got my first experience running machines, like excavators and cranes and stuff like that,” the 30-year-old says. “That kind of pushed me to choose operating engineers.” 

Gutierrez came to IUOE Local 14’s apprentice program through Helmets to Hardhats, the non-profit that connects military veterans to careers in the unionized Building Trades. He graduated in February, after successfully completing a three-year process he acknowledges was quite challenging.

“To have to be able to retain all the knowledge…there’s just a lot of knowledge that you get, a lot of tests that you have to take — it’s hard work. People think of running equipment, ‘Oh, that’s easy.’ [But] it’s very physical. Then you have to be a certain type of intellectual person to be able to retain all the knowledge because the tests involve a lot of math and reading comprehension. [They] treated us like grownups, [however]. The amount of knowledge we received in the program is unbelievable. Every piece of equipment, we got to run everything that we tested on, just a vast amount of knowledge.”

Despite the challenges, Gutierrez says he loves his job and the further opportunities it affords him.

“It gives me more options for a career path,” he says. “If I become more proficient in more machines, instead of just focusing on one, it opens up my career in the future to be able to operate different pieces of machinery instead of being stuck on just one.”

Right now, the military veteran is looking forward to adding ace “crane operator” to his expanding list of skills and abilities.

“I’ve already gotten pretty good on excavators and other machines,” he says. “The cranes are where the challenge is — you have to be very proficient in them. You have to be safe, you have to be smart, you have to plan ahead for everything. I just attained my Hoisting Machine Operator C license. There are two more [licenses] superior to that I want to work my way to getting.”

Gutierrez is currently running an excavator for the El Sol Contracting & Construction Corporation where he is helping to construct new onramps to the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge.


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