Recently I was working a register at a convenience store and I wanted more. I was working a register for four years and it wasn’t making ends meet.

Personal Information

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NAME

Alexis Caraballo

JOB TITLE

Carpenter

LOCATION

Providence, Rhode Island

SALARY

Undisclosed

NUMBER OF YEARS IN THE FIELD

Less than one

COMPANY

Sweeney

Education

Apprenticeship, Carpentry

Career Bio

The profession

I’m an apprentice. I only have five months working here. This Brown University Engineering construction project is my first big job, so I’m learning how to do metal framing, sheetrock and I do a lot of insulation. Everyday I’m learning something new and it really keeps me busy. It makes time go by. I’m being productive. I’m working with a lot of skills that I didn’t think I had.

How I got here

When I was young I was into carpentry. Then I drifted off and I didn’t stick to it. Recently I was working a register at a convenience store and I wanted more. I was working a register for four years and it wasn’t making ends meet. I was there from 7 am until 11 at night and I was a slave to the store. I wanted more than that. So I reached out to this program Building Futures and they helped out. I went there just for my GED. And once I got my GED they said they could get me into the trades, anything that you would like to do. I brushed it off because I had a job. Little did I know, my family sold the store a year after! I just didn’t know what to do anymore and then finally a bell went off: Building Futures. I looked at the website and I saw what they had to offer. I took the opportunity. Once I was there, it was a five-week program and I had the opportunity to choose any trade I wanted to. I went with carpentry for that fact that when I was younger, it’s what I used to do. So I reconnected with my carpentry skills. They took one year and they helped me get into the union and it’s been great ever since. I’ve been blessed. From the Building Futures program to landing a job here, I gotta say I’m blessed. It’s a big brother and sisterhood and I wouldn’t take it back for nothin’. There is so much respect here that you don’t get in a lot of other places.

A typical day

Trying to master drywall. So my employer is the drywall company, Sweeney. So a typical day I come in and I work under the journeyman. A journeyman is the guy who started at the job just like me but they graduated, they did their four years and now they can actually do work on their own. They don’t need the boss to be there to tell them what to do. So I work under the journeyman. It’s a big brotherhood. They teach me a lot of love and respect. They teach me. I really appreciate it. So my day consists of helping the journeyman, getting him materials he needs, but also learning the task that was given to him and he passes it down to me.

The hardest parts

Showing up everyday. That’s one of the biggest battles. I found that if you put your heart into it, you’re gonna learn. It’s hard work but showing up everyday, there is such a brotherhood that even what you don’t know, they explain it to you. You just have to ask the questions that you don’t know about and the answer will be given to you. Whatever it is that you need to do, they’re gonna help you. There is no shame. They’ve all been at the bottom. They know what it is to be at the bottom. I came and I was so lost and intimidated and by the first, second week I was already moving at a pace where I can at least keep up with them.

The best parts

I was born and raised in Providence. I went to high school up the street at Hope High School. So to come so many years and work here -- I feel a big connection -- to my neighborhood, to the people.

The myths of the profession

There are a lot of myths about, “Oh, union workers they just sit around. There’s so many of them!” And that’s not true. Everyone plays a part. From the smallest to the biggest thing, there ain’t no taking a break. Everyone works hard.

The workplace

Building Futures a Rhode Island program so you can be from anywhere in Rhode Island and they can help you, but they’re based in Providence. And we have a good connection because I can still call them. They help us with our license. They help us with our taxes. I was with a lot of bothers and sisters who went through the program so when they see this Building Futures hardhat right away there is a big connection. In terms of work/life balance, I get to go home by 3:30, 3:40. I get to have a life. I get to watch TV, I get to take my son to the park, I walk my dog. I’m all about resting and going right back to work the next day. Family is really proud and just the look on their face makes me come here the next day.

Advice for someone thinking about going into the field

Don’t think about it too much! Do it. And there is going to be a big reward. When you’re done looking at the work you do with your hard working hands, it’s real rewarding to look back and say “Wow, I did this.” I recommend any young person coming into the trade -- don’t waste time. Do it right away and come in and benefit.

Advice to my younger self

Hard work pays off. The easy way doesn’t stick. It’s the hard work that pays off and it’s really rewarding to look at what you do.