WESTFORD — It’s never too late to change your career path. Christine Greenwood is proof of that.
After working in several jobs — including in restaurants, office administration, insurance, accounts receivable, hospitality and farming — Greenwood decided to train to become a licensed plumber.
The 35-year-old Billerica resident heard through social media about the Career Technical Institute at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, which offers evening courses for adults who want to learn a trade and pursue a new career.
“The program seemed exciting and interesting to me, so I took a chance and joined,” Greenwood said. “I’ve always liked jobs that are more active and mechanical. The job I had at the time was sedentary, and I knew I wanted to try something new.”
Greenwood completed the CTI course in May 2022, and in May 2023, she was accepted into the Local 12 Union Apprenticeship Program, one of 50 from more than 500 applicants. She is the first graduate of Nashoba Tech’s CTI plumbing program to be accepted into the program.
The Westford native graduate from Westford Academy, took some classes at Salem State University, then started trying her hand at several careers before setting her eye on a career in plumbing.
“All of those things helped me to build exceptional people skills, but I knew I wanted to develop a more concrete skill set,” she said. “Plumbing was pretty new to me. I had worked before on vegetable farming, and we set up and maintained a well-pump-driven irrigation system, so some of that background was helpful as a base, but I had never soldered or worked with materials like cast iron or copper pipe before.”
Enter Nashoba Tech’s CTI program, where students can learn the fundamentals of plumbing, including how to cut and connect copper, steel, PVC, PEX and CPVC pipe and fittings, and how to use the tools of the trade, including hand ratchet threaders, propane-gas torches, tubing cutters, Strykers, ratchet cutters and more.
Nashoba Tech plumbing instructor Matthew Govoni, who is also one of the instructors for the CTI course, is confident Greenwood will do well in the plumbing field.
“Christine worked with a variety of plumbing materials in the hands-on part of the class,” Govoni said. “She soldered, pressed, threaded and glued projects together with a variety of different fittings and materials. She studied the material given in class and asked a variety of plumbing questions.”
Greenwood called Govoni “a standout teacher and mentor.
“I really felt that he wanted everyone in my class to be successful,” she said. “He took the time to get to know us and built a great classroom environment. I felt empowered to be curious and to ask questions. The activities and things I did in the shop encouraged me to problem-solve and figure things out for myself. Mr. G was there to answer questions, guide me and give feedback. However, he also motivated me to be independent and confident.
“The program was just what I needed to take this leap and change my career path,” she added.
Greenwood’s job with Local 12 is at a new school building under construction in Boston.
“I get to work with more experienced journeymen, and I have a second-year apprentice to mentor me,” she said. “The journeyman is so patient and has been plumbing for a long time, and the second-year apprentice I am paired with is great, too, since he knows just what it was like to be in my shoes as a first-year apprentice.
“Each day is something new, and I get to put the skills I started developing in the CTI class to work,” she added. “I’m excited to expand my skills and learn to read the plumbing plans. I have measured and cut pipe, installed water lines, cored concrete to allow pipes to come up through the floor, and installed support systems for pipes.
“My job before wasn’t going anywhere, and I had hit a peak,” Greenwood added. “I feel the CTI course prepared me to be an asset to the union and an asset on my job site.”
Jobee O’Sullivan, Nashoba Tech’s director of Postsecondary and Community Education, is thrilled that the CTI program has prepared Greenwood for a career in plumbing.
“Christine was tenacious in her pursuit of the Plumbers Local 12 Union Apprenticeship program,” O’Sullivan said. “She worked hard for this opportunity, recognizes the career path it can provide, and I have no doubt she will make the most of it.”
O’Sullivan added that Nashoba Tech’s CTI program will present more programs in fall of 2023 and spring of 2024. Visit nashobatech.net and click on Community Ed/NCTI for more details.