Go Build Alabama recently sat down with Cody Byrd, a 17 year old senior at Baldwin County High School to learn about his interest in the HVAC industry. For the past three years, Byrd has taken dual enrollment classes at North Baldwin Center for Technology (NBCT) in Bay Minette, where he has earned credits that will be accepted at Faulkner State Community College, or other post graduate programs once he graduates. The skills he picked up at NBCT helped him land a full-time summer job working as an apprentice HVAC technician.
We encourage you to read our conversation below, and learn more about how a background in the skilled trades is preparing Cody for the future.
CODY BYRD, 17
Go Build Alabama: What got you interested in HVAC?
Byrd: I enrolled in career tech during my sophomore year. My first class was actually in architecture and design where we learned carpentry and built a mini-house, but while on the campus I saw the HVAC program and realized I wanted to learn more.
I’m a pretty practical person, so I told myself it ain’t that hard, it’s always gonna be needed, and it pays pretty good.
Go Build Alabama: What did you learn in class that gave you the confidence to push yourself professionally in the industry?
Byrd: Mr. Eubanks, my instructor at NBCT taught me the basics about the work, which helped me get a job with Swinson to begin with. Then, while at work, I learn a whole lot more about real deal trouble shooting, and how things actually work. That puts me in a position to go step-by-step in the classroom and understand the concepts of what I’m doing, then put that knowledge to work in the field.
I’m not sure I would have been able to get this job at Swinson if it weren’t for what I learned from Mr. Eubanks. So, I’m thankful for that.
Go Build Alabama: What’s your plan after you graduate?
Byrd: I plan to graduate early, on December 16th. Then, I’ll get to work.
I’d also like to participate in SkillsUSA, so we’re looking into what my options are there.
As it relates to the work, I don’t mind the hard work. It takes a lot of determination to get up everyday, sometimes at 4:00 AM to get out in the field by 6:00, but it doesn’t bother me. And, I don’t mind knowing that I’m going to be working in the hot summer sweating. I’ve gotten used to it, and I like the paychecks.
Go Build Alabama: Do you have any family or friends who work in the skilled trades?
Byrd: My dad is an electrical engineer, and he raised me to always work for the things I want. That’s how I grew up.
I also have several friends in the industry, like my Jerry Mitchum works in the field, and has taught me a whole lot.
My classmate Austin Hadley works for Hadley Heating and Air Conditioning. Scott Wiley, another classmate, also works for his dad at Wiley Services Heating & Air. It’s fun that we’re all like friendly competitors and we can push each other in the classroom to be the first to solve problems and fix the systems.
Go Build Alabama: How does your job at Swinson prepare you to learn and become a better professional technician?
Byrd: It’s a small company, and we only have three full time technicians. Mr. P (Pete Swinson) has been great and has told me I would be working with them so I can keep learning before I get my own truck get out there on my own.
In fact, earlier this summer the air conditioner at my family’s house went out. It was throwing codes and we didn’t know what was going on, so I called Mr. P and he walked me through some steps. With his help I had the AC working again within 30 min. So, the training and experience really pays off and my parents were pretty excited about it.
Go Build Alabama: What’s your opinion towards college?
Byrd: My plan has always been to go back to school, and I would like to stay in the trades and advance my skills. My current employer has already told me they would save a spot for me to finish my education and come back and work.
Go Build Alabama: 5 years down the road, where do you see yourself?
I guess I want to start my career and live my life. Make some money.
Byrd: 5-10 years I want to be graduated from college, in my own van, making good money and helping people out fixing their air conditioning. I guess I want to start my career and live my life. Make some money.
Go Build Alabama: How has Go Build helped influence your opinions of the industry?
Byrd: I started out just seeing Go Build stickers and materials around the classroom, but got to know Go Build because they would have speakers at our competitions. Each of the speakers would share information with us about the industry, and they all talked about how the jobs are, and that the industry is looking to hire people like me.
I also learned that a lot of people are retiring and most people my age aren’t comfortable with the the work required to make a good living in this field. Me personally, I don’t mind it. I actually enjoy hard work.
Go Build Alabama: What advice do you have for other students who might be considering jobs in construction?
Byrd: My advice is to experience the field just once. It’s okay if you don’t like it. This isn’t for everyone. But, it’s important to experience the work for yourself and not be afraid to try new things.
I used to have another job working for a t-shirt apparel company in the warehouse doing general labor. When I was there, I was inside all day, and I wasn’t happy. I also didn’t make as much money. Now, I love being able to work outside with Mr. P and Swinson’s, and I’m able to get paid good money every week.
If you want to know, I was making $7.25 for the t-shirt company, and in my first summer working with Swinson I made $12 an hour with no experience. I’m making even more than that now and have room to grow.