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Hey guys, Martin King, again with skilled trade rescue. This is the episode from our series that we’re doing. We’re talking to real life skilled trades folks all over the United States that I think have unique stories to tell. And the goal of this particular series is to get the word out about skilled trades. And let people know that it’s not just the consolation prize, it’s not just the type of thing you get into if, if everything else doesn’t work out skilled trades are the real deal. And we’re finally getting a little bit of critical mass, if you will, about people waking up to skilled trades as a viable option if you’re not, not college material, or maybe you did college and the types of things that you’re getting into are of interest to you. So we’re going to talk about that. So today, I have an opportunity to sit down with Ernie Loomis. He’s out of the Sacramento, California area. And he’s got a good story. And I want you guys to hear it. And at the end of this recording, I’m going to see if I can talk Ernie into providing an email address to where you can email your questions into him. If if he has time to do that. So Ernie, welcome to the show. And how are you today? kind sir,
I’m doing pretty good. You know, I’ve I’ve taken on COVID twice and got it out of there. No, but no strikes. Looking good, man.
Fine. I’m glad that the last time we tried setting this up. Your voice wasn’t working.
Yeah, it’s a funny thing about, well, my my bouts with COVID has been kind of interesting. It’s more turned into like sinus infection. So that’s, that’s been my little key key and like, so the last time we were supposed to interview I had a head cold. And I’m like, man, what is going on here? So I had to take a COVID test to go to the doctor’s office and I am I going? What? How do I get positive and the story was I was going I actually went to one of my daughter’s graduations for college. And I’m like, How in the world we had to wear masks and all this other stuff. And I’m like, How in the world did I get COVID on all this error because I write all the shots, all the boosters for the requirement because I worked for a defense contractor. And I’m like, that is the goofiest thing in the world. Nobody else in my party. Nobody else on my family. Nobody else’s extended family or friends and my daughter’s friends got sick. So it’s a head scratcher. That’s for sure.
Yeah, this whole thing has been I’m good news is I think we’re finally on the on the downside of this whole thing. You know, it’s the the COVID that’s going around right now. I think is what they’re saying it’s COVID light, you know, it’s not like the one that’s killing people. It’s just if you feel terrible for for a week or two but you know, this one is is not as deadly if you will is the original one. Hey, so let’s tell your story. So you’re a military guy. So your navy I guess originally?
Yeah, yeah. Originally I started out in the Navy nuclear power program did eight years on nuclear submarines i i went through back when I went through it was about a two year program. So they initially teach you or at the time I went through the day they had three different trades that they taught you in electrical trade or the mechanical trade or electronics trade. Well the Navy’s infinite wisdom they say hey, you’re gonna be a mechanic. So I’m like, okay, whatever. So you get Yeah, you they give you about six months of mechanical training. That was a they call it mmm. And that was all done at Great Lakes, the boot camp for the school and the extra schooling. And then when you get done with that, then it’s a time when I was in a sent you down the Orlando Florida to finish off all the nuclear power classroom phase and in the third phase of that is they sent you to what they call a prototype. At the time I was in. They had three different locations one was in New York. One was in he’s like getting recalling more New York, Connecticut, I think and in Idaho. I got my choice to go back to Idaho where I where I grew up and finish up my third face in Idaho. All those sites are gone now they’ve been decommissioned and and scuttled and now they have I think just one place I think there’s a South Carolina but I’m not even sure that anymore. I don’t really follow the training sites.
Yeah, yeah, they change something about you Submariners man. I don’t know what it is. But I retired for a couple of years and then recently I decided to take a contract job at one of the big electronics companies. And I work in the facilities engineering group, right. And I bet you bet On my shift, there’s five guys and I’d say three of them are x Submariners, working on Oh, really. There’s something about and the other day I had my motorcycle worked on and guts talking to the guy because that’s what I do and, and he’s a submariner too. It’s like, it’s like all of a sudden, you guys are just in my life. And it seems like a lot of you guys gravitate towards, towards, you know, working with your hands and doing stuff, you know?
Yeah, yeah. Well, one thing about some murders is we don’t just know one job. We know a lot of jobs. That’s, that’s kind of the requirement, especially in America trade, you kind of know, your primary job, which like for me, was machinist me. But did you have a secondary job, which is maybe the electricians are always helping out electricians all the time? That’s what we did. Yeah, of course, your nuclear power train, which is your primary MOS so to speak, right? But that hardly ever really comes into play. Because if you’re always constantly being trained up with the Navy, what they require you to know all the time. Yeah, and for me, when I was in, in the late 80s, early 90s, they were had just signed the salt two agreements. And so they were phasing out a lot of the old missile boats, they were phasing out a lot of the first generation fast attacks. So we were decommissioning a lot of submarines. So I was I was one of the lucky guys that got to decommission three submarines in a in a five year career and did well on below 9394. They what happens if the Soviet Union collapses So there there was a big downturn right, and I decided to get out of the Navy and start my civilian career so to speak. So then I get into industrial refrigeration that’s that’s really how I got in into h facts so to speak, right i i about two years prior to me leaving the Navy I was looking around I get into nuclear power that Nope, because a Three Mile Island we stopped building a nuclear power plant so I’m like, what else can I do? So I started getting the air conditioning on the boat, and chillers and pumps and all your associated equipment and I was like, I could do this. So I got into industrial refrigeration.
So once you got out what was your first job when you got out in was it in refrigeration?
Yeah, it was in refrigeration. I was I was actually very fortunate because I was kind of floating for about a year I was just doing being a janitor at a at a retail state place and an older gentleman saw my resume at a potato processing plant there in southeast Idaho and he he calls me up he says hey, I need a guy like you on my on my shift like really is like and we do interview was probably an hour long and the interview was not the my skill set because he was an ex Navy guy. So he his whole thing was you know how many rides that I get while we’re BLOWN On blowing up a bombs in the bikini atolls?
Well if you’re on top of the bow beyond the foredeck or the foxhole or the Afghan on the bow or I’m at Stern. You’d be dead right now. And he was easy looking at me like really? Like yeah, you know, have Overwatch shielding air. You know, if you’re inside below the waterline. You probably saved yourself while he was an engineer. So he was like, who he’s like wiping his head. He’s like everything because he was it His 50s Right. So it was it was a, it was a weirdest interview I’ve probably ever done about my skill set. So he was so worried about the radiation cow that he could have gotten. And like I said, if you really had radiation poisoning, you’d be dead by now. It was like, that was this whole thing. So that’s how
he got the job. And then what were you doing for the for your first job in refrigeration?
We were tearing down open drive compressors. That’s what we were doing. We were converting our, our, our 12 and our 22 systems. Over to we’re we’re getting into because our child had already been
outlawed in 134. A,
you know, it’s hard to he had some he was going from our 20 twos are 502 or 502 are four, maybe 404. Yeah, but he had some interesting, he was a very smart guy for having not having an engineering degree, right. And he had all these things set up. And if we would, he had us on a predictive maintenance schedule to so every compressor, we had 45 compressors just on one refrigeration line for frozen potato product. And yet every compressor auto predictive maintenance schedule, right. So as soon as it hit, I think it was 500 hours or 1000 hours of operation. Because we ran 20 470 Yeah, break it down, overhaul it bringing it into shop, break it out, overhaul it, put new rings, new pistons in if it needed new business, hone the cylinders, the whole nine yards, right, and then put it back in shaft alignment, the whole land started back up and you know, Taylor, and these things sat in pairs all the way down his life. So I learned a lot in the year and a half that I was a year and a half, maybe two years, I was working at the site. And then one day he comes up to me he’s like, after we had just installed a brand new ammonia refrigeration line. He says you need to go someplace else because you’ll never advance any further and his company then graveyard. And I looked at him funny. Like what do you mean is these guys are lifers here, they don’t ever move. Don’t ever go anywhere else. The only way you’re gonna go to the swing shift. This is one of these guys dies. No, like, that’s not good. So I found a job in 45 minutes closer to where I live in like commercial real estate residential. And I did that for four years. Okay, four years. So it was my career has never really big like just one spot. I learned refrigeration trade, hands on. Employers sent me to schools and learning the different sides of the trade. And all it was non union until I got to Sacramento I went union.
Yeah. Have you ever had a problem finding a job in refrigeration? Air conditioning?
No, no. When I moved back to California, I got my job over the phone interview over the phone and got my job over the phone. That’s how easy it was it. They’re always hurtin for good mechanics. Always. My job I got here when I came back to Sacramento in 2000 was we need a guy just like you What are you willing to take to get you to move? I negotiate my wage and everything and I sold all my unnecessary stuff in Idaho go back to California to try to save a marriage in Well, I didn’t save the marriage. But I had a great career. And then a friend of mine sponsor me to get into Yeah, and I tripled my weight and got a lot better benefits package and everything and all process. So
in so nowadays are you’re doing commercial primarily now? Or are you still doing any residential?
I only do residential for friends. I’m on the side for that kind of stuff. I really don’t do it as a necessary thing. I just help friends out. I do all commercial. And I’m in the facility engineering side of it now like what you do for a company consultant, I actually do for real, like I’ve been doing that for Oh, I see since 2006 2005 2006. So I enjoy it because it’s steady work. But it also challenging, especially, especially with the energy optimization that group California has really been pushing for I like the site that I just went to here in Sacramento. Four years ago, all our equipment was 40 years old. All of it everything. I walked into the site, and they’re interviewing me. And the guy says, well, we got these problems with our chillers. We got these problems with our roof cover. We have these problems with our controls. And I said well, this is what your problem is when you reach off equipment and start detailing. He’s like, the guys look at me like and this is the facility manager who’s supposed to have 25 years experience, right? He’s like, right? How do you do it without even going to look at because I do this for a living. This is I’m the SME right I use it wherever I go. I know. This is like, you know the, what they call the dog whisperer, horse whisperer, like the machine whisperer. Right? This is what I do, right? I said, Can you show me the chiller plant because it was on the first floor. I didn’t have to get a clearance to go in there. I walk into these chillers and I’m like, Oh wow, that’s the same stuff I had on submarine. Like really? Same exact chillers are spread out a little bit more, but it’s the same equipment. Right? Electromechanical controls, right all within, you know, I had the job right there on the spot. So go shoot my wage.
So what’s the what’s the day in the life for for Ernie? So right now you’re in facility. So you mentioned you’re working for like a military contractor or something like that and in facilities. So you’re an outside company that’s augmenting or doing work within a facility that the in house people aren’t doing? You’re helping them out? Right?
Well, we took out so when the military started downsizing in the 90s and early 2000s, right, they, they abandoned a lot of these military sites right? Here, the state or the county, or cities took over these all military sites, but left a lot of old equipment behind. Right, right, then they started leasing these sites out. And I don’t know if they get federal money or state money to update them to be energy efficient. So we I actually worked for a defense contractor that’s leasing this small section of the site. And we because we’re a federal contractor, we have gotten a certain dollar amount for capital to update everything. Energy efficiency wise, right? So the last two years, three years because COVID messed us up. Right the last three years, we’ve probably spent two and a half $3 million, and energy upgrades.
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Yeah, all our chiller systems have been updated all our cooling tower to all our pumps. And I basically sit down with a mechanical engineer like, Hey, I know these things are way oversized. I know the killer whale reserves, I know based upon the prints and our actual person load and our heat load and our operational because we don’t operate 24/7 anymore. So we don’t need to have this, this and this and our control systems out there. So we need to do this. And so this is kind of like a retro commissioning, we were coming into the building like, yeah, it’s been 20 years, we need to do this. And so this now I kind of go through a new sequence of options and reprogram everything, right. So that’s what I’ve been doing.
Let me guess so you, you’re making these statements to these engineers, they go back to the drawing board, and they spend six months, run all the numbers and all the models and all that kind of stuff and basically come back to the same place where you are in 10 minutes. Yep. needs to be.
Yeah, yeah. All right. Our energy provider who is SMUD, which is Sacramento district. Ver they’ve done that with me, they’ve actually come back and says, yep, you’re right. Yeah. And our interviewers are like, how does he know that stuff? Like, like, without actually crunching numbers? And I’m like, it’s just basically experience.
Yeah, right. Yeah, one of the interesting things that a lot of people don’t know, and I’m speaking to the young folks out there that may be considering skilled trades, is that, you know, everybody thinks that most of the energy that we produce the electricity that we produce, goes to residential homes and, and things like that. Well, the reality of it is most of the energy that we produce, when I mainly electrical energy, goes to power, commercial and stuff, industrial buildings, that that’s where most of that energy goes to. So what he’s talking about guys, is there’s a big push, some states are more aggressive than others, the federal government, depending on who’s in power is pressing on renewables and all this kind of stuff. And the whole idea is they want to create more efficiency. So what he’s talking about he’s he’s got some old pumps, old chillers, old boilers, old things that when they were originally manufactured, they were built when energy was relatively cheap. And now energy’s more expensive and it’s in vogue now to cut down carbon footprint, especially in California. Oh, yeah. That’s why you’re so busy. Right, Ernie?
Yeah, yep. So here’s my example, one of my examples, I’ll show I had a 400 ton cooling tower, that means it can get discharged or released 400 Tons of energy to cool water for the cooling for the two chillers that we had in one of the buildings right now. Our actual heat load in the building was more like 200 to 250 tons if it was fully, fully loaded with 105 degree day outside running at max capacity. Right? So now this is from my experience, adding up all the numbers, adding up all our occupied space, adding up the number of people that are in that space in this one building, right. And then actually, physically observing the chillers running at 105 degree days, like what am I temperature differential across the condenser temperature differentials across the chiller taking these engineering numbers that are readily available on the internet? Right and the design specifications of the chillers when they were first installed? Right, I have this, I still have all that information, right. So I’m like, we’re way oversized. This is crazy. And I present this stuff to my energy managers in Northrop Grumman say, what are we slated for in Northrop Grumman, who’s the defense contractor, contractor I work for, they have what they call a green energy portion of the corporate side of the business, right? So they’re going and we have different business uses. But they go like, hey, wait a second, if we can slash a certain amount of energy, which is relatable to carbon footprint, we can get you some money for upgrading those chillers, upgrading those cooling towers. So my cooling tower at the time was a forced draft cooling cooling tower, which means I have to turn on a fan, a 40 horsepower fan, to get air to draw across the cooling tower, right? Well, nowadays, they have these cooling towers that literally you don’t have to turn the fan on it’s natural draft to start a cooling process. Right. So and if you do have a turn on a fan, it’s got a VFD, or variable speed drive or variable frequency drive to actually start to fan slowly get the process to go right. So Oh, my God, guys, we could just if we change out this cooling tower, we can say this much kilowatt hours a year. And they’re like, Yep,
yeah. And that’s really simple math. That’s not that hard math to do.
Exactly. Right. So my first project was the first chiller plant. Right. And I’m telling just about the cooling tower and the chillers. They come back, because what if we do all the pumps, all the chillers? All the cooling towers? In this year? Can we get it done in one year? I don’t know if we can do it in one year. But I know we can do it in like a year and a half. Give me the money. And the time I get done in this. This timeframe in the winter. They’re like, Let’s go for it. How much money do we need? Like what like what? Everybody’s telling me? It can’t be done. I’m, I’m like your ingredient. Jeez, the one is out. We need to get this done. We need to reduce our carbon footprint, right? No, no one ever came back. So it’s kind of one of these days where my boss is at the local level didn’t think done. I present this to my bosses. My bosses go to green at GE and I agree that visa Yes, we have this much money in the capital pot. We could go do that for you guys.
Yeah. So what? What’s the give me give me a career success, earnings. Maybe a situation that like, pops up in your mind, like, you know, Wow, I love this. I love this. This this business that I’m in, you got to let you have a story about something that just like just just put you in awe about the opportunity to work in in in what you’re doing.
Well, like this one. So we got this cooling towers changed out. We got these chillers changed out, okay. One of them was, I was before this company, I was working for a private company that was I say a medium sized company with about 100 employees, right and they buy up small commercial properties, which is just office buildings, and no industrial no production, like I’ve worked out what they consider industrial production. We have people in offices, but we also produce a small bout of items for Northrop Grumman in the military. So we have what they call mixed use this where I worked before was just straight office building. We had done a renovation on a second floor, second or third floor and we had some northeast exposure to the sun with no shade. So we get done with this office. We get everything built out per the design specter the engineering and architectural team. People move in and we have a hot zone and I’m talking not just like it’s warm when it gets you know first thing in the morning like seven o’clock eight o’clock in the morning. And you got to understand when we’re running air conditioning. And our air conditioning on commercial office really might be a chilled water system. Most likely, it’s a, what they call a DX system with direct expansion, where you have a big air conditioning unit sits on a roof that just pushes air around. Those units will not normally come on in refrigeration mode until they are you no greater than 60 degrees outside. So in the Bay Area. Usually that doesn’t happen until and that’s where I was working in the Bay Area usually doesn’t have to around 11 o’clock in the morning. Usually you’re using outside air for energy efficiency purpose, right. So we were having a very difficult time trying to cool. It was probably a 200 square foot area of the building the northeast corner. And we’re scratching our heads going, What the hell do we do? Right? So I’m talking to an actual mechanical engineer. He comes up from Sacramento because his companies from Sacramento had done the mechanical layout and the air conditioning load up and everything right. And we would have to freeze the whole floor out, you know, sub cooled the whole floor to try to keep this 200 square foot area at 75 degrees. Yeah, that’s unacceptable for the rest of the people on the floor. Because there’s like 100 people on this floor, right? So we’re sitting there, we’re taking readings on the glass and single plain glass because the building was built in the 80s. The glass is tinted, right. And we’re thinking about putting some mylar film or chrome film or something on the inside and increasing the airflow of the ductwork center. And the exception of this floor or this this floor and this bill that was we had exposed ceilings so you can see all the ductwork you can see the lighting, the cabling, everything, right. Yeah. So all the heat still now all the heats getting pushed to the, to the ceiling, but also getting mixed air is getting mixed. So it’s not, it’s not getting encapsulated in a return air like it should be, it’s getting mixed up, the air is all getting mixed up. So you’re having a difficult time really having a temperature control on its own. Well, the engineer and I are scratching our heads for like a week we’re taking, we’re taking temperature readings, we’re taping temperature recordings, we’re watching this don’t get hot from like 6am to 9am. And it just cools right off. And we start realizing this is a solar load on that portion of the building. That’s all it is. It doesn’t matter what we try to do the machinery, we’re wasting a lot of energy. He starts, the mechanical engineer starts digging in to when the building was built, who built the building, the manufacturer of the glass, and he finds out that there was a manufacturing deficiency was the type of glass that was built in the mid 80s, ah, even the tinted glass that was built back then that allowed a bunch of UV radiation to come through and infiltrate the space. Like, on the whole, but that must be our issue. So we start, we take a infrared camera, and we start recording what’s happening in the spaces. And in fact, we had a couple offices in that area too, that would have to be closed off that so no one could watch it and mess with it. And we could see the space just gain loads of infrared heat, right? visible to the eye, right? So we’re like, Well, how do we fix this? Well, he and I start researching that mylar film, but actual
the stuff they put on us to put on the space shuttle. The that tile I forgot the name of the title now it’s like a Corningware. Right, according where Kyle well, they started making, they started making that in a film right for window coating. That said put it on the inside. Because if you overload the heat that the window glass starts getting, you could actually shatter the glass, right put it on the exterior of the glass that actually prevents that infrared for coming in. So we were looking at $23,000 or read ducting pushing, you know, excess energy down the ductwork for the machines that run extra hard. Heaven I come up with this idea of hey, why don’t we just go get some glazers put this Corningware style of film on these windows that are in this exposure? And it was it was like $2,500 worth of work. Nobody wants to approve it. I go talk to my property manager. And she’s an out of the box kind of thinker. She’s not part of the company inside structure. She had just gotten hired like six months prior. Her and I sit down I said is it in your budget? Can we can we rob Peter to pay Paul? Is there anything in your carpeting budget can we do this? She comes up with the money and gets it done? Yeah. All sudden. The tenants are super duper happy $100 We fix a problem? Yeah. Oh, yeah, that was probably the I was like, of all the things in a world and only a mechanical engineer and a guy with a nuclear power background would understand infrared loading inside of a building. Right. Right. Nobody else would believe us. None of the not that the company I was working for they No, no, no, you can’t do that. That’s There’s no way that’s happening. We
know. It has a lot to do with where the money falls on the budget. I find, you know, it’s
the money. Yeah, it’s
crazy. So the, you know, the facility has, you know, X amount of dollars on the on the mechanical repair budget, right? Yep. That may have been the pond that was drawing the money was being drawn out to do all this duct work. Shit, you know, ductwork stuff. Yep. And the film that you put on there to ultimately solve the problem didn’t fit on any of the budgets. Right? Exactly. Yeah. And the way budgeting works is people up up the food chain. They know that unless that money gets spent, the first thing the bean counters do is they say, Well, you know, this facility didn’t burn up their entire budget, so they must not need it. So next year, we’re going to lower it. Right? Yeah. And nobody wants their budget lowered?
Yeah. Well, what was nice about working with the facility, the project manager slash facility manager for that site, was that she did, she wanted the customer happy. Right? That was her job. That’s what she was looking at. She didn’t care about the bean counter. She was getting, you know, it was a brand new customer and brand new tenant moved in. And she wanted them there long term, because they were a mortgage company. And if they see your long term, that floor is gonna stay completely occupied for the next 10 years. Right? They don’t like to move around. So in her mind, he’s like, Hey, rent rolls, right? Rent rolls, that’s what’s gonna be paying the rent for this building. These guys are long term tenants. It was a nice build out and you’re worried about $2,500? Come on, I’ll take it out of my I’ll take it out of my profit margin.
Sometimes you just gotta shake your head. You know, it’s what’s really interesting is I ran my own companies for years and years. So I was the guy. Yeah, I was a decision maker. And I, I would always I was that property manager type guy. As an owner of HVAC companies, I’ve always wanted to take care of my customer. And now, during this contract gig, I’m just a, I’m a very, very small cog in a very big wheel. And I have zero gifts, right? So some of the times I you know, I go through and ask the senior tax because some of these guys have been there. 2530 years. I’m like, what, why do you do it this way? This makes absolutely no sense. Oh, yeah, that’s, that’s, and they’re like, we’ve done it that way for 15 or 20 years. And, you know, that’s just the way it is, you know? Hey, so what are some of the biggest challenges that we’re faced with right now in the in the skilled trade industry? Maybe specific to HVAC, refrigeration? What are some of the big industry challenges that you see come in, coming in are already in or what?
Well, I think the last, the last five years I’ve actually really seen over the last 10 years, is, everybody’s being told go to school, get a degree, everybody’s being told to go to school, get a degree. And what I’m seeing is, there’s a lot of people, guys and gals that are not happy with your degree, and they end up getting a job, not even close to the degree that they got their job in, right, and they’re completely dissatisfied. Now. Now. We’ve got you know, we’ve done COVID Everybody went through remote work, quote, unquote, remote work, quote, unquote, and now everybody thinks, oh, I can work from home, I don’t have to interact with anybody, right. And they forget that there’s gotta be people that have to go fix all the stuff that breaks. And it’s the same moderate Go, go get your degree, go get your degree, you can work from home. And you’re like, who fixes your computer, who runs the it cables to make the computer work so you can have remote work, right. And the biggest failure of all of this is you still have to do an interface with somebody, you still have to shake your hand. You still have to go in and see them. You still have to go, you know, deal with a physical problem at a physical place where things are breaking, and in the skilled trades. Part of this is, guess what? There are plumbers or electricians there’s a track guys that are glazers, their construction guys. Everybody’s still building structures for all these people to go someplace to have a meeting remotely, whether it’s your house, whether it’s a conference Through, whether it’s an office building, whatever is going on, these places still exist. And, like on the skilled trades part, whether you’re electrician or carpenter or sheetrock layer, or whatever it might be, there’s so many less of us that are good at what we do. We’re getting paid crazy dollars amount of money to come in there and go do the job. And then the guys that are retiring now, like the guys I knew when I came in, are gone. And they’re retiring and just disappearing. Not even, they’re not even sticking around to consult, you’re not even sticking around two to three days a week and help out, they’re not even consulted, they’re just dropping off the map, which is, in one way, good way. But another way is really bad. Because years of cost of institutional knowledge is going away. The tricks of the trade are going away, the past, our knowledge is going away. So what happens, you have this big gap of not enough people coming in to replace those people. And then the guys who came in like I did, I got into it in the 80s. And I’m gonna be, you know, probably retiring in the late 60s 60s to 1015 years. But I still like being in it. Right? Yeah. So what’s gonna happen, right? incredible amount of pressure to stay in, because there’s not enough people behind me to keep coming and keep going into it. So I’ve always, I’ve always talking to people, Hey, how would you like to do this job that I’m doing right now. And you don’t have to be a hardcore running around with a belt on your hip all the time. You could be just to SMEs and No, no, you need to turn this heat to operate that you need to go do this. You need to look at the plans, you need to get this information, whatever it is, to help understand this job isn’t just about turning wrenches. Yes, job requires you use your brain because computers are involved now, as much or even more now. And there’s some, like I was telling my daughter, Gago, it’s garbage in garbage out, there’s a lot of people programming these machines that don’t understand how the machine is supposed to
work. Yeah, you know, what’s interesting, I was having a, I did a little talk for homeschooling group about skilled trades a while back. And one of the examples I made of, you know, that skilled trades, how it impacts all of our lives, is a real simple analogy. So, you know, if you ask a typical, you know, teenager, high school, grad, whatever, what actually happens when you do a Google search? What happens? So they go to their phone, and they put in? I, you know, I want to earn, I want to learn about Ernie Loomis on LinkedIn, whatever, right? So they go in there, and they do a search on Google, and it comes up with LinkedIn, you know, all kinds of links on stuff. Well, the other end of that search, that stuff you’re putting into your mobile machine goes into a data center somewhere, which could be literally anywhere, anywhere. Yep. Yep. So each search generates a little bit of computing power to do that. And computing power generates heat, and eat. If it builds up too much, and it’s not removed from those servers server fails. So you put in your search, you don’t get the results because the server is not running. And so there needs to be a guy like you or a guy like me, or somebody that knows how to fix the chiller. Usually. That keeps that that server cool. Somebody needs to know how to fix that thing. Because if it goes out no more Google.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Right. No more Google. I actually worked at a site like that for two years. It’s like, you know, it was it was up for a big bank and, you know, redundancy, redundancy, redundancy, right? Well, what happens when the heat builds up, like, you know, the cooling towers go down, or the generator goes offline, or main power goes online, and the generators go offline, all you’re doing is drop on your own batteries was the backup site. Yeah. And sometimes there’s a lag before the backup site comes online. Yeah. And we saw stuff like that at the main data site. We’re phasing catastrophically failed, right. And people can’t pull their money out of the bank. Yeah. Right. I mean, that people don’t think about that, that there are people on those sites that are there. 24/7 Yeah, and that’s the word. You are sitting there doing repair work, or like you go to your favorite site, and you click on it and it comes up. Oh, temporarily offline due to routine maintenance. Well, guess what? I know exactly what they’re doing. Because I used to do that like routine maintenance. Yep. Everybody’s offline because we got to flush the cooling system.
Yeah, Yeah. Hey, so how many years total? Have you been in in skilled trades? Now, Ernie?
That’s about 330 years total. Okay, on the civilian side of it, not including the Navy. So I want to ask
you a question. I already know what the answer is going to be. But have you ever known in all the contacts that you’ve generated in the skilled trades area over your 30 years? Plus? Have you ever heard of an HVAC Refrigeration Technician job being outsourced to another country? No. So that’s another point that I’ve been really drilled at home because, you know, these, these college grads, college students, you know, they they get a computer science degree, or they get a marketing degree, or they get a communications degree or whatever. You know, they’re not only strapped with the debt, there’s a lot of pressure they have to work to eventually pay off that that debt. Yep. And, you know, college debt is not bank reparable. So you will pay it back one way or
the other? No.
The, the challenge is, is that there’s other nation states, India, Vietnam, China, especially, you know, their, their education system is very, is socialized. So the government’s are paying for a lot of those education. degrees in those countries. Yeah. So what happens so you get a computer science degree, and you go to work for Google, or you go to work for, you know, any high tech company. And for whatever reason, that high tech company is having some financial challenges, which happens, it’s a cyclical thing. First thing they’re going to do is try to outsource all that stuff. You know, they’re paying you $125,000 a year, they can get the same work done over in India or Pakistan, or wherever, for half the price. What do you think they’re gonna do?
No, yeah, I have a friend who’s going through that right now. They just out sourced as well, they it’s like a, well, the outsources job, he had to bid on it to get his job back. So he’s working for a subcontractor, right? That subcontractor, for whatever reason, is not performing to the standards that were required. So they brought in another company to meet the standards that was required. He’s having to bid on his job again. Right to keep his job, and he just found out he’s possibly going to be traveling overseas, because his job requirements have increased in order to keep his salary. Yeah, like, what? I’m glad I don’t do computers for a living.
Yeah, no kidding. So I want to talk to you about wages. So we started before I hit record. We started talking about that a little bit. Oh, yeah. So your union so maybe you’ve been doing this so long? It sounds like you were non union for a while. Where are we at today? In 2022. So you get a you get a youngster they’re just getting started. Smart man or woman. They they go in as an apprentice union union. What’s uh, what’s the starting wage in your market out there in California, and it’s gonna be a little higher than the rest of the nation. But what yeah, what are we looking at? Rough.
If they were in a San Francisco, I’ll talk with the highest one that I know of is San Francisco Bay area. They, their journeyman are right around $75 an hour. Turned out just a plain old journeyman mechanic. Right. And that’s five years of apprenticeship. Right? Right out of school out of their five year apprenticeship. They’re at $75 an hour. That’s
the starting amount right out of the
day start. Once you get accepted into the school year started at 55% of journeyman wage. Oh, yeah, exactly. Now, you gotta remember the Bay Area is pretty expensive living so that’s part of the reason. Yeah. So in a Sacramento region, their wages right at right around. It’s like 5898 or 5890 or 85 an hour, right. Today. In July 1, they’ll get a raise of, I think 250 an hour. So there’ll be right around 60. That’s during life for journeyman wage in Sacramento region. Also a five year apprentice apprenticeship. Yep. And then of course, there’ll be 55% starting out right as a first year apprentice motto. Always like throughout 30
or 3025 30 bucks an hour to start.
Yeah. 33 to something in our study out right. Now of course you have to pay into your own retirement and and you’re on vacation font and stuff. So, in reality, if you deduct $7, an hour off of that 32 something, it’s still by $25 or $25. take home pay in your pocket as an apprentice. Now, in the Sacramento area, I don’t know about the Bay Area, we’re from there. But in the Sacramento area, as an apprentice in the union, you every six months, you get a raise. So it’s like a buck 50 An hour raise every six months until you get caught up to the journeyman and turnout. So, in my book, I don’t know of anybody, I don’t know, on the non union side, where, you know, you’re gonna get a raise every six months unless the economy really soured out. Yeah, if you’re gonna get a guarantee raise right. Now.
What if they have, let’s say, you get somebody that goes to one of the trade schools? You know, let’s say they go? I don’t know, there used to be a couple. I’m from California. There used to be like a couple of these technical colleges, you can go to and learn HVAC, I can’t remember the name of them. But so let’s say they go through an online course or they go through they they put in some some screen time on learning. Does he ever does union ever bring him in? Do they start all the apprentices at the same point? Are they given any credit for previous experiences and things like that? There are
some things that they will do. Like, for instance, from my situation, when I got in, I was given credit for being in the military and going through some schooling and stuff like that. They gave me credit, right? So they gave me two years of credit for that. There were there were guys that had went to like Sac City College, I think still offers a refrigeration. Course with hands on experience, right? And I think it’s a year and a half. And they’ll give you I think, a year’s worth of credit, or six months with a credit union, right? It also depends like if if a company goes union and all the techs have certain amount of years of experience, there’s credit given, and some of those guys might be brought in as journeyman. So it might be as broad as first second or third year apprentices. It all depends on the negotiation, what the union is done with that company, right? It’s a case by case situation, and the person who’s sponsoring those people, right. They don’t give credit for online, because unless those the online certification is like an accredited university that says, Yeah, this guy’s 26 weeks or whatever, they will give credit for the military, like Air Force, the Air Force has a 26 week age back. School, it’s like one of the longest age back schools with the Navy, right? They will give credit for that, because they know you’re getting your hands dirty for that. 26 weeks, and you’re learning everything about refrigeration. Right. So yeah, that’s it’s still a it’s still a case by case basis right. Now, do you?
What do you think? Do you think it’s better to work for a bigger shop? Like when you’re first getting started? Like, is it better to work for a bigger shop, a medium sized shop and that way, I guess, a small shop small shop, I’m saying might have, you know, 10 trucks or less medium sized shop, maybe have 25 3040? A big shop would have, you know, 5060 trucks or more? Is it better for an apprentice to start, you think in your opinion, with a smaller shop, medium shop, big shop,
I would start with a medium to bigger shop. And here’s the reason why. Because when an apprentice is put into a school, right, by the company, they’re bound with an agreement. And the school, the company and the school have an agreement to keep that apprentice employed. Okay, right. So there’s a certain amount of pressure equally involved with making sure that the apprentice gets to school, the company has to make sure that they get off at a certain time twice a week to get to school with Tuesdays and Thursdays. And, equally, that the that the the dues and everything else are paid by the company, right. So there’s got to be a fair amount of work for that, that apprentice to be employed full time in order to be going to school, right. So there’s like equal amounts, if you have a small shop, and he can’t bid on a whole lot of work, then it’s gonna be tough to keep that apprentice employed, right. So that’s, that’s why your medium to large shop is a lot better than a small shop that might be struggling even if I only have five trucks, or six trucks and the guys are all busy, he can’t get off and go to school or they’re struggling to get work and the guys Getting his hours, right? You got to have a certain amount of work hours per month to qualify right? To go on to the next year and stuff like that. Yeah.
Cool. Well, gosh, Ernie, we’ve been talking for almost an hour now, man.
I know. Right?
So before we wrap things up, so what? What, what parting words would you give to somebody, either, like you mentioned earlier, who has some college experience and has come to the conclusion that, you know, college isn’t their thing, or maybe a high school senior, or parents of high school senior that are, you know, trying to guide their son or daughter on next steps after high school? What would you what parting words would you give these individuals that are that are kind of at a crossroads about their career choices and things? Well, don’t,
don’t be afraid to go down and take the entrance exam, to these apprenticeship courses, right? electrical, mechanical, carpentry, whatever is big in your area, right? Definitely electrical and mechanical and plumbing, and sheetmetal. They’re always looking for people, cluding steel workers, right? They’re always looking for people and they pay good, right? The tests are simple. Math and English. That’s all they’re looking for. The math is algebra, simple algebra, nothing major, right. And if you don’t do well, they’ll let you take the test 100 times till you pass. There’s no real disqualification. If the kids are kind of hemming and hawing or don’t know what to do, talk to him about the military, as like sometimes the military will let you test on the ASVAB to see where you are strong in, it’s a free test. The ASVAB is a free test, I used to do it in high school, they don’t do it anymore. Have them look into it, you don’t have to sign on the bottom line, if you don’t want to go on the military, you can walk away, there is no charge to walk away. There’s no harm in looking into what the military has. Because you can sign a three year contract, get your stuff done, get all the training, get all the education out of the military, and then go to a trade school that way. You have a lot of experience. You have all the training, you get done with this great trade school in a shorter period of time and get good pay at the same time. Yeah, I have a daughter that did that. She didn’t know what to do. She was going left, right or straight or district down. I talked her into the Navy. Now she’s on a destroyer. She did naval electronics warfare package. She loved it. Yeah, she’s really she’s not really doing her job yet. But you know, she’s, she’s experiencing the discipline in the structure of the military. Yeah. And she’s grown up a lot. By doing.
Yeah, one of the things about, you know, being in skilled trades is a lot of it started to get talked about more and more now, where, you know, you go through college, and you’re going to college, and you get the college experience, you know, air quotes, you know, you get a chance to Yeah, you know, a lot a lot of these kids or they get out of the parents home for first time a lot of times, yep, that’s exactly. And, you know, they’re doing their their coursework, and, and a lot of them will work jobs while they’re going to college. But it’s typically not, you know, it’s retail, it’s, you know, working at the coffee shop, and you know, just enough money, you know, get some spending money or maybe subsidize some of their school expenses, but they’re not working in whatever it is, if they’re computer science, it’s pretty rare that they’re going to be working in computer science until they get further along in their degree process. And as a parallel, though, you know, you get into a skilled trade. Especially union, you know, you get paid immediately. And you’re working in exactly. Well, you’re working in the same industry that you’re getting taught in. Yeah, and, and you’re getting paid really well, right. So, yeah, I
knew I knew a guy when I was doing one of the chiller plant change out. So that was working on just a couple years ago. He had two degrees, two college degrees, couldn’t find a job, right? He goes into the mechanical tree, a track side of it right on the plumbers and pipefitters side. He was loving it. He was loving it. He was loved. He’s like he should have done it. He’s 35 years old. He should have done it when he was 25. He told me Yeah, it didn’t think he would like it so much turning wrenches learn about different systems, pulling up prints looking where things go and stuff like that. Yeah, he because he had been taught out of the trees by his parents and other families and stuff. And you kind of you’re like, you were tucked out of this. Yeah. Everybody thought I’d be better off going to college. And he had a fair amount of college debt. And you kind of you kind of think about that for a minute. It’s like, just try it there’s nothing wrong with trying these things and see if you like it. And that’s like what I’m going through right now. My future son in law is like, he doesn’t like college. And he’s starting to do other things to see if he likes what he’s doing. He registers on his car all the time. He loves his car, he loves rented his car. There’s a reversing, I think, and I was like, This guy needs to be in the trades. kind of been kind of working on my daughter, like, hey, you know, let me let me see if I get him into union. Right. You know, I think he’ll like it. Because if you get him into the service side of it, service side of a track can be very interesting and challenging to him enough that he will do this for the next 25 years is like a never regretted. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don’t regret it. I’ve seen some crazy stuff. I’ve done some crazy stuff. I’ve done some interesting stuff. And I’ve done the whole gamut. I’ve done controls, I’ve done major equipment change out like I’m doing right now and getting the energy updates and talking to the energy manufacturers. In fact, I was just on a big, big conference call with the corporate side of Ng, north of Grumman. And they are just now starting to do energy service agreements, which has been around for 20 years, right? Yeah. And I’m like thinking, Well, you guys are so far behind white ball, like, you guys are light years behind. And I’m thinking to myself, like, we should be doing this all the time, because there’s no capital outlay. You said, a third party. They put all the money upfront, and you get all this new equipment, and it pays for itself over time. Yeah, right. It’s like this a no brainer. And Northrop Grumman has a lot of sites that are very old and Elon updates.
So that is it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I very much look forward to continuing to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me messages on LinkedIn. I’m on there all the time. Or you can reach out to me on my email. I’m at M King at process Tiller academy.com And until next week, when I give you the next installment I wish you a great week, and I will connect up with you again soon. Take care. Bye bye
Episode(s) That Support This Topic.
Skilled Trades Interviews | with Jim O’Mally | An Insiders Perspectives on Skilled Trades
Today I get to sit down with Jim O’Mally, who has a unique perspective on the subject of Skilled Trades, particularly within the public school system.
Jim has used his experience and grit to teach skilled trades to our youth in public and charter schools, the state prison system, and everything in between.
This long-form interview with Jim covers several skilled trades’ topics and perspectives that you will rarely in the media.
You can access this podcast episode in audio-only or video using either of the links below:
ProcessAcademy.com – https://bit.ly/3h7s1DU
Link to Jim O’Mally’s BLOG: