Tales of the Trades shares just some of the millions of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate and maintain the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.
Meet Alec Rees. Alec is a first-year Metal Fabrication Technology student at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and one of four recipients of our inaugural Rock the Trades Scholarship. Alec has had a passion for working with his hands since he was young and loved seeing projects through from start to finish. When he discovered metal fabrication, he immediately knew it would be the right fit for him. Alec knows that manufacturing and fabricating offers endless personal and professional opportunities, and he is confident that he can achieve greatness through his hard work, dedication, and pride as he enters his trade.
What led you to pursue a career in the trades, and specifically your chosen industry?
Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a passion for working with my hands. I always played with Legos as a kid, and I would tear RC cars apart and put them back together. It was kind of in my blood. Both sets of my grandparents are very hands-on, and I always enjoyed working on projects with them because I learned best by seeing and by doing. That definitely inspired me to pursue the trades. I found Penn College here and came across this metal fabrication degree, and even though I never welded or machined before, I felt that those two things suited me well after I researched more about them.
What excites you the most about the trade you’re pursuing?
The precision that machining requires stands out to me, because I’m a very detail-oriented person. For welding, it’s being able to take machine elements and put it all together through welding. You get to take raw pieces and create a final product, which is really cool to me.
What is the most rewarding part of learning your trade?
It is super rewarding to see those raw materials turned into final products and knowing other people can use these products for specific purposes.
What are the most challenging parts of getting started in your trade?
Accepting the fact that mistakes can happen. With machining, there are a lot of times where you’ll have hours of work put into a certain part, and one wrong move could cause you to make a wrong cut, so you have to scrap the part. That’s not true all the time, but it happens, and it’s hard accepting that you put all that work into something and have to restart. I think that’s something I’ll become better at with time. It’s part of the learning experience, which is good.
What does it take to be successful at what you do?
I’d say the most important thing would probably be your mindset. Anyone that can practice, persevere, and be consistent with what they do can be successful at what they want. Especially in this trade, because you learn so many new things. Learn the framework and the basics of it, then build from there and become more successful with it.
What are your thoughts on the state of the trades right now industry-wise?
I still think there’s a way to go. I definitely see the shortage of people. With my generation, I think that the more that technology evolves, we can somewhat forget the fundamentals, so it gets overlooked by a lot of people, but there are very rewarding jobs available that the world still needs.
Any advice for those thinking about taking up an industrial trade?
I think a lot of people get hung up on how much they’re going to make and how much money is in the trades. You almost have to forget about that, though. Money is important, but what’s even more important is that you recognize what you want to do and where you want to be in the future. The money will follow if you’re determined enough to do something. Find what you want to do and don’t worry about what a lot of other people are doing. Stick to what you want to do.
What would you like to accomplish or your career to look like?
My goal as of now would be to get the best education possible and continue learning as much as I can. Once I have that good knowledge, I want to step into the industry and learn it from the ground up. One of my more long term goals would be to eventually open my own business. I’d love to be known for the quality of my work. I don’t want to be known for someone that just gets the job done or does it for the money. It matters to me that every job is done right and it’s really helping someone else.
Last but not least: what’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
I like hanging out with friends and family, and I like doing a lot of adventurous things like snowboarding and hiking. New things really interest me, as well as working on my hobbies. I love feeling productive, and it’s good to explore!
Our thanks to Alec for making the time to share his story.
Learn more about our Rock the Trades workforce development initiative and our Scholarship.