In 2009, Sergio Rivera was 18 and looking for an opportunity. After graduating from high school, he knew the path he wanted to take but wasn’t sure how he would break in.
“My dad was pretty much the one who guided me to pursue a trade.” Rivera said. His father works as a carpenter most recently for Rochester Gas & Electric. “I talked to my aunt. She was the one who had the connection with RochesterWorks!.”
RochesterWorks! connected Rivera with Tambe Electric, who hired and trained him on the job. At 19, he joined a union. Nine years later, he’s still going strong.
“Its labor, physical work. As you progress in your career, you get easier jobs,” Rivera told RochesterWorks! in the still under construction living room of his of his Parma home. “Jobs that use more of your brain than your body.”
Sergio’s days start early. He’s typically at work by 7 a.m. and most days end by 3:30 p.m. He travels across the region working on various projects as a part of his union.
He started off as an apprentice, wiring hospitals before working on light industrial and high voltage projects. Today, he works for O’Connell Electric where he primarily runs tests on various projects. He says that apprentices start somewhere between minimum wage and $15 per hour depending on the company. Pay raises are based on performance, commitment the trade and years invested in the work. Rivera says that overtime is typical for him.
“Last year I worked about 3000 hours,” Rivera says. “The average person works about 2000. There’s potential to make a lot of money but you have to be ambitious and hungry. People don’t see the big picture. At 55, I’ll be able to retire and make more than I would be able to by working.”