Called to Be a Pipefitter: Interview With Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin—winner of our giveaway MacBook last month—is a cool guy.

Troy & Avery
Troy Johnson with his daughter Avery.

As an experienced Union pipefitter, Troy has a solid career story and plenty of recommendations and surprising truths about the construction industry for those interested in the same line of work.

Troy is also ahead of the game, using Find Your Calling to help his middle-grade daughter get an early start to finding her calling.

Below is an interview with Troy about what it’s like to have a career as a skilled tradesman and how he thinks Find Your Calling can help students today.

How did you know you wanted to be a pipefitter?

My father was also a pipefitter and when I was in seventh grade, I saw one of his paychecks. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a pipefitter. Dead serious!

So tell us more about your job.

I’m currently working commercial jobs. Hard work, but great money! I started out doing residential service, and have been a foreman the last several years—I’ve seen it all.

I’ve been fortunate to be busy in my line of work, but many have not been as lucky. I’ve worked with many people who have changed careers a time or two before getting into the construction industry. I currently work with many individuals who are here as “travelers”—they travel to find work, since their state may not have enough jobs or any jobs at all.

Tell us about your education and training. Did you go to college? Did you have special on-the-job training? 

In 12th grade, my high school offered a program that allowed you to go to the local vocational-technical school for the last three hours of the school day, so I participated in their HVACR program. After graduation, I applied to be a pipefitter at St. Paul Pipefitters Local, but I wasn’t accepted the first year since the program only selected around 20 per year. (Over the last few years they’ve accepted more like 40-45 a year, which is great to see.)

FYC pipefitter salary
Pipefitters in Wisconsin can make north of $36K a year, depending on education and experience.

After not being accepted the next year as well, I realized I needed something more on my résumé. So I enrolled at Dunwoody Institute of Technology for their commercial refrigeration program, a two-year program with the summers off. After the program, I went back to St. Paul and got accepted.

As a first-year apprentice, I started out in a small residential shop running natural gas lines in new construction developments. I also worked on repairing residential furnaces and air conditioners. I started a five-year night school apprenticeship that fall, which was a requirement in their apprenticeship program.

Sounds like you are specially wired for construction. Is this what you would call your dream job or ideal career match? If not, what is?

I do consider pipefitting my ideal career match, but it’s not what I would call my dream job. If I could pick any job, I would like to be a tuna fisherman. I took a liking after watching a National Geographic program.

Do you have any advice for a young person interested in construction?

My advice is to see if there’s a program available when you’re in high school. If not, start with technical college. Nowadays, the skilled tradesmen are sought after at the local vocational schools. Students don’t seem as interested in the labor trade these days, but that’s unfortunate because it’s a solid way to make a living, especially in this area. The wage and benefit package is pretty decent, which will hopefully draw more interest.

How did you use Find Your Calling?

FYC pipefitter education
36% of pipefitters have at least some college eduction and 54% have on-the-job training. There are almost 1,600 graduates in the US today.

We created the profile for my oldest daughter, Avery (13), and the results were spot on. I’m glad it’s here to help us both when the time comes for her to pick a career and plan her education. It’ll be a great tool for her and for all those that use it.

What are the biggest problems facing students today?

Students wrestle over knowing which career to choose because they aren’t sure what they want to do, they struggle with the financial means for college, they can even have a hard time finding a job, period, because of the economy and the pool of individuals applying for the same jobs. They need guidance.

How do you see FYC helping students with those problems? 

I see FYC helping students find the right career path and guiding them towards the steps to get there. The assessment results may or may not suggest a career they’ve thought about. If so, it further proves that they would be great at it. If not, it opens their eyes to other options. All the career listings and the education information is a huge asset. Having this knowledge at their fingertips is sure to be a big help.

Any final thoughts?

I thank you for your service in helping these students. It gets them one step closer to where there need to be!

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Visit Find Your Calling to find your career match today. Enter our weekly $1K scholarship drawing here! Contact me at gwen@findyourcalling.com

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