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Every day at 7:30 a.m., Tony Prins arrives in the offices of Domestic Plumbing in Clinton, Iowa. While getting ready to visit between one to six jobsites starting at 8 a.m., his day starts with communication.
A constant theme in Tony's life has been communication. From morning meetings with follow workers, chats with customers and back home with his wife and two kids, Tony spends his whole day connecting with those around him. In fact, if it wasn’t for his kids communicating their support, Tony may not have gone into the plumbing field.
“At a young age, it’s easy to be interested in anything that Mom or Dad is doing,” Kelsey says. “There would be lots of well wishes, hugs and kisses each morning before he’d go off to classes.”
And when Tony arrived back home, tired from the day, the kids would want to snuggle and ask how his day went and about the various projects he’d been working on in class.
“The kids have been great about understanding that sometimes on the weekends, when Tony’s on-call, that our plans may need to be paused or altered slightly while Tony takes care of a call he’s received,” Kelsey adds.
Pointed in the right direction
Even his start at Domestic Plumbing came about by chatting with some of his future co-workers. When he was employed by
Detterman Excavating, Prins worked closely with Domestic Plumbing. Having worked with the company “quite a bit,” Tony got a good idea what it would take to be a full-time plumber with the guys.
“He had been talking about his interest in the plumbing field for probably six months or more before he actually made the switch in jobs,” Kelsey says.
Some final encouragement from one of the Domestic plumbers was the final ticket.
“Tony is typically a laidback guy on most everything, but he was genuinely excited by this feedback,” Kelsey says. “So for me, it was a no brainer. He, like everyone, deserves to be fulfilled with his career.”
Family may have been what made the transition easier for Tony, and it was what made Tony stand out to Tim Hess, the company’s owner.
“Domestic is a small shop in a small community, and a shop that promotes a family atmosphere with a focus on customer needs,” Hess adds. “As a young family man who obviously cares about others, Tony fits right in.”
‘Tote and carry’
For the first few months, he spent time as a helper – mainly assisting some of his co-workers and being the go-getter. The “tote and carry kind of guy” as Tony points out.
But it didn’t long for Tony to get real on-the-job experience. As Tony describes it, he walked in to grab his company shirt and was told to head out to a job site. At the time, Domestic Plumbing was working on multiple units in an apartment complex.
“The apartment complex was one of the bigger projects that we’ve had,” Tony says. “We were going nonstop for six days a week.” Tony says. “I did a lot of copper water lines. Pretty much the first day of the job, the journeyman I was working for handed me a torch and said ‘Go to it.’”
If communication is how he got into the industry, communication would help him now that he was on the job.
“Of course you always try to figure it out on your own, but if you can’t, there is always somebody that can help,” Tony says.
“Bones,” as Tony is known with Domestic Plumbing, has never been one to shy away from asking his fellow colleagues for help or advice.
“The journeymen he has worked with have, on separate occasions, remarked on Tony’s listening, retaining and applying skills,” Hess says.
Applying that knowledge taught on the jobsite certainly helped last year when Tony signed up to participate in the state plumbing apprentice competitions. Under the guidance of his instructor, Tony competed against some of the best in Iowa for a chance to take on the best of the best apprentices in the nation at the 2017 PHCC CONNECT conference in Milwaukee.
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association’s Plumbing & HVAC Apprentice Contests brings together the nation’s top 20 plumbing and top 12 HVAC apprentices for the opportunity to showcase their skills and knowledge.
Tony took home the top prize in Iowa and headed to Milwaukee for the plumbing competition. Hess believed that Tony would excel against national competition. For added measure, Kelsey and both boys decided to go, too, and cheer on their favorite plumber.
After checking out some local attractions the day before the contest with the family, Tony went to work. At the competition, he was asked to install a bathroom – complete with a sink, a showerhead, drain and toilet – over two days in two separate locations. Tony felt like he was in his element, not letting his mind get too far ahead. He claims he was more focused on his work, not focusing on those around him.
Tony was a little surprised to be one of the first people to finish installing the bathroom during the second day of the competition. He was even more surprised by the final totals.
Tony finished in second place.
“I had a feeling I did pretty good,” Tony says. “So I had a feeling I was going to be up there, but I didn’t expect second place.”
Shortly after Milwaukee, Tony took the next step in his plumbing career. He took and passed his journeyman’s test. And even though he has moved up the ranks, Tony is still dedicated to learning something new just about everyday.
“His confidence in his work has improved. Just ask him,” Kelsey jokes. “Seriously though, he’s become more confident and relaxed in his work. He’s gone from being the helper on a job site to the one running the job. I’m very proud of him.”