There’s limited time, and less flexibility, than other professions. And a lot of times some of these projects need to move along quickly and we do a lot of overtime. Over the years I worked six days a week for four years straight, pretty much. It’s a lot of hustle and it’s, you know, can be a lot.

Personal Information

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NAME

Jeff O'Kelly

JOB TITLE

Pipe fitter and foreman

LOCATION

Providence, Rhode Island

SALARY

Undisclosed

COMPANY

Arden Construction

Video

Education

Five year apprenticeship, in pipe fitting

Career Bio

The profession

Pipe fitters work on all piping, different grades. They join the pipes together to transfer fluids to different systems.

Pipe fitting and plumbing both join different pipes together but they deal with separate systems. A plumber mostly deals with sanitary systems, which includes, bathrooms, utilities, sinks, and toilets. Pipe fitters deal with process systems that involve heating, ventilation, and cooling.

How I got here

I kind of fell into this racquet because I was in the Navy. I joined the Navy in 1985 and started welding. I guess why I joined the Navy is because of where we live and our proximity to the ocean. I enjoy working with my hands and doing things physical. Building things. So it was a fit for me, military and then into the pipe fitting and welding industry.

Years ago, I worked at an engineering firm and my wife worked in the office. That’s how we met. We’ve been married 25 years, have two children, 22 years old and 14 years old. My son is going to graduate and this is a good profession but there are easier professions, you know. And if you like it, you like it like me, and we all need people to do these jobs because there wouldn’t be places like this without us, in some ways. Somebody’s got to build these things. But you’ve got to make sure it’s for you. That’s all.

Now I'm working on the new Brown University Engineering Building.

A typical day

When you show up at 7 a.m.--we work 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.--you’ve got to be here on a daily basis. You only have a half hour for lunch, you’ve got a fifteen-minute break.

The hardest parts

There’s limited time, and less flexibility, than other professions. And a lot of times some of these projects need to move along quickly and we do a lot of overtime. Over the years I worked six days a week for four years straight, pretty much. It’s a lot of hustle and it’s, you know, can be a lot.

Advice for someone thinking about going into the field

If you want to become a pipe fitter then you can fill out an application for our local, Local 51, and you’ll get some kind of background, and you know, screen you. And if you get accepted to the program you have a five-year apprenticeship, which is classroom, five years of classroom, which you go two or three nights a week, and also you have on the job training--that’s part of the apprenticeship—so you start out on the job as somebody green, who doesn’t know anything.

Advice to my younger self

Get more education.

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