The first person I selected to write about is one who I consider a mentor. I met Marc Zimmerman in February of 1981, at the time he was a Journeyman Pipefitter in Kodak’s Polymer Department and I remember watching him work, making precise gore cut fittings and just being in awe of craftsmanship it takes to calculate, lay-out, cut and assemble these pieces.
The start of Marc’s story is very similar to mine. He had hopes of being a Dentist but after his first year of College he knew he wasn’t cut out or ready to spend several more years listening to lectures, reading text books and taking tests. In the summer of 1972, a neighbor who recognized Marc had mechanical abilities approached him and asked him if he would be interested in summer job at Eastman Kodak.
“John was a great teacher, a tremendous sense of humor, a strong work ethic and one of those guys who really wanted to share his knowledge and experience. It’s funny but at the time you don’t realize how lucky you are when you end up working with someone like John.”
“I had been through Polymer as an apprentice and had hated the hot areas, the smell of the chemicals and having to wash that stink off you every night. Dick Lauer was the Mechanical Leadman in Polymer at the time and he convinced me that I should stick around. Dick, who also became one of my mentors saw promise in me that I had yet to recognize myself. I can remember him telling me that if I worked hard I could be on a path to go places within the company and he was right.”
It was not long after this that I myself got the opportunity to work with Marc and I can tell you he had all the qualities he saw in his mentors.
“The job requires me to work with all the different contractors and as a result I get to know the tradespeople as well. It’s kind of weird to look back from where I am today managing projects of 20 million dollars and above.”
“When I look back at what I learned in that Apprentice Program and where it has take me in my career, It makes me want to find a way to give back. The last project I completed was the upgrade of one of New York’s Trades Schools. This is a school where High School aged kids can go to learn the basics of residential trades like carpentry, electrical and HVAC. While working on this project I was able to meet some of the school instructors and asked if there was any way we could somehow involve the students in the project as a learning experience. The result was what we called the Construction Club. As part of this club, the students were exposed to the drawings and plans for the project and allowed to watch as the different phases of the project progress.”“It was a great experience for the kids but in the end, I couldn’t help but think there needs to be something more. A school that’s focused on the industrial trades that has class time and practical hands on time, a more accelerated approach that produces tradespeople who are ready to go out after a year of intense training and start working in the manufacturing world. If we could figure out a way to do that, I might never retire.”“We need to somehow get young people to understand that learning a trade is not only satisfying, but it opens up a world of opportunity.”