Miguel Gomez’ Unbeatable Attitude Made it Happen

By Linda Schmid

When you meet Miguel Gomez and talk to him about his work, you can’t help but smile. His enthusiasm is infectious. He is doing what he always dreamed of doing; working in HVAC as a plumber.

That may seem like an unusual dream to many young people, after all so many are told that they should focus on getting into college so they won’t have to do trade work. Miguel said that people told him that too, but he ignored it. 

Miguel was always curious about how things worked. When he was small he wondered why the shower water got hotter when someone flushed the toilet. When a repairman came, he followed him around like a puppy asking questions. 

Working Toward A Goal

As he got older, his uncle, a plumber, took him under his wing. From sixth grade through high school, he worked for his uncle’s shop, Molina’s Plumbing. Eventually he could run some jobs himself.

In 2011, Miguel went to work for Bill Howe Plumbing, Heating & Air. The company encourages their employees to take classes at the trade school, even paying the tuition. A year or two later, Miguel started classes.

When his employer encouraged the students to apply for scholarships, Miguel applied for three or four of them. “It was difficult writing essays,” Miguel said, “It brought up a lot of memories about my past. Growing up, we were poor, first generation Mexican-Americans, and we had a hard time of it.”

Earning a mikeroweWORKS Scholarship

Until he applied for the scholarship, Miguel had never even heard of Mike Rowe because he had never watched much television; he always worked. However, when he decided to apply, he watched a few reruns of “Dirty Jobs,” and he thought it was so important that Mike was showing everyone what tradespeoples’ jobs are about.  

“It’s wonderful that he is getting the word out that there are lots of opportunities out there besides sitting at a desk,” Miguel said.

Awarded a mikeroweWORKS scholarship that paid for his textbooks gained him recognition at work, as such inputs help his employer to continue educating  employees. 

Part of the scholarship process requires Miguel to take the Foundation’s Sweat Pledge. The pledge tallied with his outlook, but his favorite part was the statement that everyone is created equal. Miguel knows this to be true, although he has not always been treated equally.

Furthering  His Education

The first couple of years of trade school were pretty easy for Miguel; he already knew the basics. Then, he moved into sizing and all of the calculations involved with that part of the job, and it became more challenging. But he persevered and earned his journeyman’s certificate. Miguel is very proud of this accomplishment. 

“As a first-generation American, I have planted my flag and become the person my uncle said I could: a journeyman plumber with a contractor’s license.

“People tried to put my decision down,” Miguel said. “They said I should go to school to become a lawyer. But that doesn’t work for me; I like to be up and active.”

On the Job

People also harassed him because of his skin color. They would make comments like “You look more like a landscaper.”

“I’m comfortable in my skin,” Miguel said. “You can say stuff about me and I’ll still fix your plumbing problem,” he added.

If it gets too tense, Miguel knows he can call the office and ask for someone else to come out. The few times he’s done that, he found that his employer had his back. They told the customer, “We don’t want your business if you can’t treat our people with respect.”

You might think that such incidences could dampen Miguel’s enthusiasm for his work, but it’s not so. He loves his work and believes it has made him a better person. “Look at me now,” he said, “I started as no one, and now I am a manager,” he added.

Miguel trains the next generation of Bill Howe employees. He is glad to share all of the knowledge he has been given with others learning the trade. He is not sure what the future will bring, but he said, “I enjoy training young people to be better in their jobs and in their lives. I think I can be happy doing this forever.” RB