From dishwasher to plumbing foreman



Nichalas Cummings

Plumbing foreman

Highlander Contracting Co., Essex

Age --29

Years in business --Six

Salary --$31.45 an hour

How he started --Several years ago, Cummings worked as a dishwasher and bussed tables at Laurel and Pimlico race tracks. He was making about $5.50 an hour and putting in a 60-hour workweek. He switched to plumbing, making about $7 an hour. He heard a radio advertisement for free apprenticeship training from the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 486 union in Rosedale. After his application was accepted, he worked as a paid apprentice for five years while attending training school two nights a week. Highlander hired him as a plumber foreman about a year ago.

Typical day --Cummings begins his day about 7 a.m. by loading his company truck with the tools and materials needed for the day. He is on the job site by 7:30 a.m. and works until about 3:30 p.m. His work varies depending on the job site. He is currently working at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport tying in drains as part of an expansion. He is outside, working with 20-foot-long, 8-inch-diameter pipe with one other person. As a foreman he is in charge of the job site, making sure the materials are there and everything gets done on time.

The good --"Every day is a challenge. It's never the same and you always have to be on your feet, especially as foreman, because you have people under you who are looking to you for direction."

The bad --Lifting heavy pipe.

Philosophy on the job --"Start somewhere. I tell my apprentices that all the time. Because once you start, everything else will fall into place."

Extracurriculars --Cummings also teaches two nights a week at the training school of the Plumbers and Steamfitters local. "The best part of teaching is I can shape and mold [the students]. I can tell them how things should be done to keep them safe." He also has started an investment company, buying rundown housing and renovating it to sell to low-income families. In another year, he can take his test to be a certified master plumber and hopes to begin his own residential plumbing business.

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