Erick Hanson, an Academic Excellence award winner for the Construction Sciences & Building Technology department, served in the United States Coast Guard for almost 10 years after graduating from high school, but eventually he was ready for a change.
“I traveled and lived in many states and gained valuable life experiences,” Hanson said. “This time and my growing family led me to eventually pursue a career closer to home with less travel.”
As he considered a career change, he knew he wanted something hands-on, and settled on training to be a Service Pipefitter for Minneapolis Pipefitters Local Union #539. And that led him to Dunwoody.
“Dunwoody was the most attractive school to me because of the caliber of instructors, structure of learning, and diversity of curriculum,” he said.
Hanson also liked that it was a two-year fast track to a new career. Although he notes, “Ironically after I finish my [five-year] apprenticeship, I will have attended some sort of schooling for seven years.” But he then adds: “I will be working, though, and that’s what it’s all about.”
And the hands-on aspect lived up to what he expected. “I have always been hands-on to some degree. That has grown in me even more over the last two years,” Hanson said. “The confidence you gain from quality training, education, and mentorship encourages you to ‘just try it.’”
Hanson’s enthusiasm for what he was learning came across to his instructors.
Bill Bobick, Instructor of HVACR Systems Servicing, noted that Hanson’s attendance and academic performance were excellent, and, just as important, so was his presence in the classroom.
“Erick always has a question or comment that delves deep into the subject matter,” he said. “His participation in class is respectful and always on topic. The subject matter takes flight with people like Erick in the room.”
Bobick also pointed to how as a first-year student, Hanson agreed to compete in the Minnesota’s Skills-USA competition, which Dunwoody’s HAVAC programs were returning to after a hiatus.
“This is not a first-year-friendly competition. When confronted with the barrage of questions and testing of skills he did not yet know, Erick did not give up,” Bobick said. “This was a nine hour day, no pay, no reward. He powered through it. I would check on him at various points of the day and was met with a smile and a positive attitude.”
Part of his perseverance is due no doubt to Hanson’s military training. But he also genuinely enjoys all things HVAC.
“HVAC-R is a secret, I think, in the trades and I am fine with it staying that way,” he said. “It’s a great field that allows you to have a very diverse and challenging career. Those challenges are what make the rewards that much better.”
Not that the program was easy, but Hanson had a good model to follow:
“My wife is the mother to my three boys and the hardest working, most determined person I have ever met,” he said. “She has faced every challenge in her life head on and never backed down. She waited to get her degree and proved it can be done even while being a mother, working, and being a military spouse. It gave me no excuse to not set and achieve my own goals.”
It also helped that he found that Dunwoody was welcoming of him as a Veteran and an older student.
“I never felt out of place in Dunwoody’s setting,” he said. “It was the most personable formal education I have received. I was always treated like an individual and a person. I have met some really great people. The instructors and students make you want to come to class every day.”
In particular, Hanson notes that while he is a service tech, he really enjoyed the sheet metal unit with Kevin MacDonald.
“I really liked creating and making something from nothing,” he said. “We literally built the solution to our problem. It’s a fast-paced challenging unit that rewards you at the end when you see what you were able to create in such a short period of time.”
Now that he is graduating, Hanson is looking forward to adding to the skills he has learned by working full-time in the field while also continuing his education with the Minneapolis Pipefitters Apprenticeship Program.
“I want to master my craft and be able to pass those skills on to the next generation. Then I want to retire on a lake and soak up what you can still get from putting in hard work,” he said.
And he’s confident that he will be able to do so. “For over 100 years Dunwoody has endured through all sorts of times, Hanson said. “I hope I have a little bit of that steadfastness after my time at Dunwoody.”