Adam Vreeland is a Local 393 Steamfitter and Pipes Trades Training Center apprentice welding and journeyman Bluebeam instructor. Originally from New Jersey, Adam started his apprenticeship in 1991 with Local 475 where his grandfather, father, and all of his uncles and cousins also worked. After traveling cross country for work, he landed in the Silicon Valley and Local 393 where he has been a welding instructor at PTTC since 2014.
Watch the video for his interview or read his responses below!
Q: Can you tell me what brought you to Local 393, and why you decided to join this Union Hall?
A: I moved to California following work. It is a part of our trade that we have the opportunity to work through different union halls, see the country, and help out where help is needed. There was a lack of work in New Jersey, and as I traveled across the country, I wound up in the Silicon Valley. I worked through pretty much every union in the Bay Area and wound up at 393. I saw it as a really good opportunity, and I stuck around long enough to clear in.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about the process of moving unions and how you got integrated into this union?
A: So, I was actually an x-ray welder. I would travel to powerhouses and refineries from job to job. I came to California for that work, out of Concord, Local 342. There was a call for a powerhouse welder out of 393, at Los Esteros. I took that call and then they had another call for a downhill welder for Stanford University, and one thing led to another. I spent two and a half years working out of San Jose, and my agent had contacted our manager to talk about transferring books and from there we started the paperwork process.
Q: Can you tell me why you originally decided to pursue a career in the trades?
A: My dad, my four uncles, and my grandfather were all union steamfitters and welders. I followed suit with my three cousins and brother-in-law and since then, we have all joined the same union, the same actual union hall.
Q: Did you ever consider college as a path for you?
A: I never considered college as a path for myself. I knew that a five-year apprenticeship would give me the training I needed, that the pay scale was comparable, and the guaranteed benefits were there for retirement, health, and welfare. I saw a path where I would get paid to learn. For us, when we went through, by the time we turned out, we owed one week's Journeyman’s pay. That was the cost of our schooling so I thought that was a fair deal.
Q: Once you completed the apprenticeship program, what did your journey look like from turning out to where you are now?
A: I wasn't expecting to be in California, that's for sure. The plan was to get out, find a house and do like my dad and grandfather did - living in one house, raising your family, and going to work. My wife is originally from the Idaho/Utah area so we moved out there for a bit. I worked in Utah and met some guys that said there was work in California. We had family in the area so we just followed the work and followed the family.
Q: Can you tell me about your apprenticeship experience, maybe a memorable moment on the job, or what was it like when you first started working?
A: When I got into the trades, and this is 32 years ago, it was letters of reference and personal interviews. There was no real testing, it was who you knew, and did you have the competent abilities in your interview. You know, were you personable, were you intelligent, were you capable of passing some of the aptitude tests? Then, if you had relatives in the trades, you were one of the first picks, because it was more of a family kind of trade. Very seldom would you see someone get into the trades that did not already have a relative involved. As I said, all of my family members are welders so there was an expectation to be a welder. They're all-around well-rounded journeymen, and so I had a lot of background and knowledge to pull from, but there were still high expectations for me.
Q: Can you tell me about what a career in the trades has enabled you to do in life?
A: Well, I just installed my own air conditioning system and furnace last year with the knowledge that I've learned on the job! Knowledge from the field has helped me do a variety of things including community projects, I've built floats with my welding abilities and my tools. I've helped with Eagle scout projects, job organizations, and things like that. It’s given me a general background in construction and enabled me to be self-sufficient at home.
Q: Why did you choose to become more involved with Local 393, more specifically becoming an instructor at the Training Center?
A: My grandfather and uncles have all taught and I thought, it's about time for me as well. My kids are older now, my youngest just turned 16, so I don't have as many responsibilities at home. My wife is working on a degree, so she's busy at night. It's kind of convenient to fill in some of these evenings, but it’s more of the fact that I've gotten a lot out of being a Union Member. I felt like I should be teaching apprentices, and I have the ability now that I have the time to teach them in the classroom or in the welding bay.
Q: What would you tell someone considering a career in the trades?
A: That it's certainly not for everybody. Mechanical aptitude is big, getting up early, and there's a lot of hard work. That being said, it's also very rewarding. Not just monetarily but the sense of accomplishment, the sense of camaraderie and brotherhood that you have working with people. I've met a lot of really good salt-of-the-earth people working in my trade.
Q: Do you have any advice for apprentices based on what you know now?
A: Yes, it's all about the hours - the health and welfare hours, the pension hours. Whatever you can afford to save from day one, you're better off putting it away. Lock it into your pension, into your 401k and be smart about your money early, before you have kids, before you're married, and keep retirement in mind from day one. That was a mistake that I made, and that's a mistake I preach to my son. I tell all these young guys to keep that in mind. It's going to happen quicker than you think.
Q: What is one of the most memorable buildings that you have worked on?
A: I've worked on world corporate headquarters, historic buildings, and in refineries that are unbelievably massive. I worked with one of the largest cranes in the world. Most recently I can say that I watched the Apple Spaceship come out of the ground. It’s like asking what's your favorite food - I like them all! I've worked with the San Jose Fire Department. That was a great building to work on. To see the history of San Jose and the pride that those firemen take in their job and in their brotherhood. So yeah, after 32 years, it's hard to pick one.