Lakeville woman learns pipefitting to provide for family
LAKEVILLE — With the goal of providing the best possible life for her children, Lakeville resident and mother Allison Bates-Scearbo went back to school to train to become a pipefitter.
Graduating from the program and becoming a pipefitter has given Bates-Scearbo knowledge and skills, including “peace of mind, confidence, and I can fix my heating system, too.”
She graduated from the Dorchester-based Pipefitters Local 537 five-year apprenticeship program in May and has since become a full-time worker. Apprentices earn 40% to 80% of a licensed laborer’s wages on a graduated scale during the program, and workers receive full wages and union benefits upon graduating and entering the workforce, according to the union’s website.
“I’m able to provide for my kids, with one income if necessary,” Bates-Scearbo said about how her and her family’s lives changed since she graduated.
Bates-Scearbo is 34 and has three kids, two girls and one boy, ages 13, 11, and 10. The first few years of training took place in the daytime, but the latter part of the training program met at night which she said was hard to balance with her kids at home.
Since she graduated, Bates-Scearbo has been taking her children out to dinner weekly to make up for those nights of training and to thank them for their patience.
“They were really good,” Bates-Scearbo said about her kids. “I’ve always been busy work-wise. Before I got to the union, I had three jobs at one time. So me working wasn’t unusual, it’s just that my schedule was a little different.”
She added that her coworkers have families, so they understood when she needed to be with her kids or watch them at a sporting event.
Most of Bates-Scearbo’s work in the field consists of retrofitting piping systems into pre-existing structures and, as a certified welder, welding pipes together. The sizes of pipes she has worked on range from two inches in diameter to two feet.
Growing up in a “mechanically-inclined” family where her father worked as a union laborer, Bates-Scearbo attended South Shore Regional Vocational Technical High School but delayed entering the trades when she became a mom.
“I had my first [child] when I was 20,” Bates-Scearbo said. “I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with a career.”
Bates-Scearbo had auto mechanic experience from her time in high school. Her brother became a pipefitter, which sparked her interest in the field.
“I saw my brother pursuing his career in it, so I thought, ‘oh, I can do that,’” Bates-Scearbo said. In the trade, she saw benefits in “the career path and being able to really take care of my children.”
Before she joined the apprenticeship program, Bates-Scearbo said she mostly worked odd jobs so she could be around for her children.
Bates-Scearbo’s husband is also a pipefitter, and the two have worked on jobs together since she graduated.
“Times are really good right now so there’s no shortage of work,” Bates-Scearbo said. “So [graduates] were able to get right to work.”
As a woman working in a traditionally male field, Bates-Scearbo sees the importance of promoting women entering the trades. She went to the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in Las Vegas last year to meet and network with other women in the trades.
She said she has not run into any discrimination so far and that Boston has done a good job of bringing women into the trades.
“I’m able to show my children and other women that women can and do belong in the construction fields,” Bates-Scearbo said. “Don’t be afraid of it. Go for it.”