Charlie Finesilver’s story at WRCC is a little unconventional — he graduated from both high school and college and had begun a career in corporate finance before ever coming to WRCC. Soon, however, Charlie realized that finance was not for him, and through the Building Trades program, found a talent for plumbing. Charlie went on to become a master plumber and start successful plumbing businesses first in West Chesterfield, NH, then in South Carolina. WRCC helped Charlie find — and get started on — a lifelong career that engages, challenges and interests him. Here’s how.
What brought you to the Career Center?
I had been working in corporate finance at the point for something like seven or eight years, and it was going very well for me, except for one small thing: I hated it. I had something I guess you might call a bit of a breakdown. I just could not go on with the finance anymore, because I really didn’t like it.
I knew that I liked to work with my hands around the house, building things. I spoke to Chuck Storms about the Building Trades class, and I asked if I couldn’t take the class for a school year to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and where I wanted to go. So, back in 1986, I took this class for a school year with Robert Karg.
What was it like?
I walked into the class green. The kids knew more than I did. They were way ahead of me! I was the only other adult besides Mr. Karg, the teacher, so they naturally assumed that I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t.
We built a house from scratch in West Brattleboro. This is an incredible class, because you have your hands in masonry, framing, sheetrock installation, you name it. Another student, Harry, and I did the plumbing almost entirely by ourselves. I was being challenged, and I was totally engaged. We both had no idea what we were doing, but we were really getting into it, and Mr. Karg was guiding us the whole time. On the very last day, a master plumber came in and turned all the water on for the first time. And there were no leaks. There were no leaks anywhere!
What happened after you finished the class?
I went into the plumbing apprenticeship program with a small company in New Hampshire. Basically, the apprenticeship program is classes in plumbing for four years while you work under a licensed plumber. At the end of the four years, I sat my journeyman’s exam, got my license, and a couple of years after that I got my master plumbing license. It took 6 years in the apprenticeship program before I got my master’s, and at that point, you can begin your own business, which I did.
I’ve had a plumbing business for 21 years now; 14 years in West Chesterfield, and another 7 years down in South Carolina. I wound up with a master plumbing license here in Vermont, in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina – all out of building trades.
What do you find most rewarding about owning a business?
Owning any business has built-in rewards — you’re proud of yourself! It feels good. You have control of your life, you can do anything you want with your own business, and of course, to some extent, it controls you. It’s not all rosy, it’s not for everybody, but it can be wonderful.
What would you say was the biggest impact of your time at the Career Center?
Building Trades changed my life. I was searching for answers; I was an adult and I was burnt out, looking for direction, and I took this class and it gave me focus and direction and from there I went into a career that lasted 30 years. It turned me around.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about going to WRCC?
That period through high school is all about finding yourself and it’s something that is important. You’ve got to love what you’re doing and take pride in it. It is so valuable to have your hands in the construction of a house from the ground up, and to have the ability to get training at this stage of the game. The kind of hands-on education that you get through a program like building trades or any of the programs here can actually get you grounded and launch you into a career that you may just love doing.
To learn more about adult education programs at the Windham Regional Career Center, click here.