GETTING TO KNOW RYAN JONES – FOUNDER OF WORLD PLUMBERS
Monday, January 21, 2019
World Plumbers is an international collective of professional plumbers who create content to share their knowledge and help others learn the trade. The network began on Instagram in 2016. This is Ryan’s story
From an early age, it was clear to me that plumbers are undervalued in society. Between seeing the stereotype of a bumbling fool with their pants falling down on television shows, and my ninth grade economics teacher laughing at me when I chose plumbing for a careers project, I knew that the highly skilled trade was being wrongly belittled. Of course, my image may have been biased by the fact that two of my personal heroes, my father and grandfather, were plumbers. I was always so proud to help out on a job, whether it was to haul a bucket or fetch a tool. The framed poster depicting plumbers as protectors of national health in our dining room certainly influenced my opinion as well. I will never forget a conversation with my grandfather, when he told me the reason that there are so few plumbers is that the work requires an uncommon ability to work equally well with your head and your hands. It felt like I was being given knowledge about a secret that nobody knew. My mother’s father, who built his own business making parts for gas turbines, affirmed my beliefs. He told me that one of the only ways to be truly independent in the modern world is to work in the trades. Using my father, and three uncles, a welder, a furniture maker, and a carpenter, respectively, as examples, my grandfather encouraged me to consider a career in plumbing.
My parents always supported me and my three siblings in finding our own paths. My two brothers both worked for my father for a summer, but I never did. I did very well in school and eventually graduated with honors from the state university with a degree in communication. During my final year of college, I began to express my interest in becoming a plumber to my peers, who mostly gave me perplexed looks. I did not expect them to understand. Just like me, they had been told that to do well in life, one needed to attend college. I wanted to do well, but I also wanted to do good. I saw plumbing as an honest way to make a living and a noble job that benefits society. After an internship with an internet start-up company, I began to help out my father and immediately felt that pride I remembered having as a kid. Also, being outside a lot in a variety of locations, meeting different people, and seeing the work completed at the end of the day, starkly contrasted sitting at a desk in front of a computer.
That same year, I traveled to Honduras for a volunteer project, then later to Costa Rica, where I studied Spanish and met my future wife. Both experiences had a major impact on my view of the world and solidified my interest in serving others. We ended up back in New Hampshire with the thought of being there for a couple of years. Soon though, I made a decision that would alter the course of our lives. I signed up for the four year New Hampshire Plumbing Apprenticeship program and went on to become a licensed Master Plumber. It was certainly an alternative and hard to obtain Master’s Degree! For seventeen years, I worked for my self-employed father, Alan B. Jones, Jr. Plumbing & Heating, in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Throughout that time, the two of us had more work than we could do, performing diverse services ranging from new construction, remodels, seasonal maintenance, repairs and gas piping to heating installations. There was a lesson my father often repeated to me: “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!” The economy and technology are in constant flux, so it is always best to stay in circulation by taking on the small jobs, maintaining a high standard of quality and stand out by offering innovative products. We had the good fortune of working for so many great customers, some of whom had originally hired my grandfather. We also got to work with amazing craftspeople who taught me more skills that have helped me diversify my abilities even further.
Last year, my family and I moved to Costa Rica. It has been a big challenge in many ways, and most definitely in my career. There are no plumbing regulations here, so basically anyone can do the work. Slowly though, with my knowledge and experience, I am earning a good reputation and will find a niche. Hopefully, I will be able share what I have learned with others and help raise the standard of plumbing in Costa Rica.
Next year, I plan to offer basic plumbing courses at local hardware stores. This is in connection with a project that I have been working on since 2016, when I created a global network of professionals called World Plumbers, using social media to share knowledge. The main goals are to raise the level of respect in our trade and to inspire others to become plumbers. Earlier this year, I was invited by fellow plumbers to Japan for a week-long tour of manufacturers, distributors and job sites. I will tell the story of the network further in a second blog post.
Right now, there is a lot of talk about the shortage of tradespeople everywhere, with an ongoing discussion about the choice between college and trade school. I will never regret going to college, but I would strongly recommend that to a young person that is interested in a trade, to get into it during, or right out of high school. There are very few career paths that give you the opportunity to earn as you learn. With many elder tradespeople going into retirement, if you choose a job in the trades now, you will have a lifetime supply of work. And you never know where in the world it will take you.
Follow Ryan on Instagram at @worldplumbers
Questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org