Q+A with Clare McCormick, B-mechanic at Manhattan Mechanical Services
Here at Manhattan Mechanical Services, we empower women in the trades and create equal opportunities for everyone who steps into our facilities. We always encourage women to choose construction as a career path.
In honor of Women in Construction Week, we are celebrating one of our hard-working craftswomen, Clare McCormick! Clare is a well-rounded and safe employee, currently working as a B-Mechanic at Manhattan Mechanical.
We sat down with Clare to learn more about her experiences, as well as her thoughts on women in the construction field.
Q: What is your background in the construction industry?
Clare McCormick: My time in the industry began during a 12-week highway construction training program at South Suburban College. There were only two females in the class, and I was one of them. I did so well that, after graduation, they offered me a job teaching as well as being an assistant program manager. I grew so much from this experience alone through earning a variety of certifications, such as flagging, lift trucks, carpentry and more.
During a career fair at Joliet Community College, I met some recruiters and we discussed my time in the program. They told me about Manhattan Mechanical Services, because they felt it would be a great fit. I was introduced to the owner, Mike Uremovich, and although my background was in highway construction, he gave me a chance. Mike said whenever I was ready, I had a job in Manhattan. At first, I was worried because I had no experience working in refineries, but I ended up taking the leap and never looked back. It was truly the best career move I ever could have made.
Q: How has your time been, working with Manhattan?
Clare McCormick: I progressed so fast. I just had my one-year work anniversary this past June, and I have already made B-mechanic. I started out as a B-laborer. At Manhattan, everyone starts off as B-laborer, then moves to A-laborer, then B-Mechanic, and then A-Mechanic. After that, it’s whichever route you want to go — whether you want to be a pipefitter, a welder, a master mechanic, you can branch off into the specific field of your choice. But no matter which field you choose as your focus, you’ll be skilled in so much more. Employees here gain a very well-rounded education and experience.
I currently take welding and pipe-fitting classes that are offered through Manhattan as well, just to continue learning and have a bit of everything under my belt. Everyone I work with is great — the different Manhattan crews and even the contractors and other companies that I meet. Anything I want to learn, hands-on or book work, I have an incredible amount of support. It’s just been a great career choice, and I’m really glad it was with Manhattan Mechanical.
Q: Why did you decide on the trades as a career path?
Clare McCormick: Before joining the construction industry, I was in the medical field and was working in downtown Chicago. Driving back and forth was exhausting, because there was always construction and traffic. One day, I saw a woman flagger alongside a highway construction crew and decided to talk to her about her job. It was just on a whim and that was the first time I considered it.
I started researching and reaching out to people in the construction field. However, everyone I knew made it seem expensive. For example, getting your journeyman card was something I just didn’t have the money for at the time. Then I came across the program at South Suburban College. Not only was it free, but they paid you $10 an hour. It was perfect.
Once my foot was in the door and I gained more insight, I thought I wanted to be an electrician. After starting with Manhattan Mechanical, I decided becoming a welder was the right move.
Q: What does a typical day-to-day look like for you on the job site?
Clare McCormick: In the refinery, we do a lot of pipelines to keep it up and running. My day-to-day assignments can range from pipefitting to boilermaking to welding — it depends. I am learning more so that I can take on a wider variety of jobs and continue to grow my current skill levels. Even though welding is my strongest suit, by taking on all these different jobs, I have grown within the company. You can never stop learning in this field and growing as a safe, versatile craftsperson. That’s what keeps you working.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
Clare McCormick: Honestly, everything! When you come to work, you never know what the day will hold. While the point of the job is to keep the refinery going, everyday looks different. I could be doing a bottle watch, a hole watch, or I could even be in the fab shop welding. The day always consists of a new crew or new tasks or both. You won’t know until you get there, and that keeps working new, fresh and exciting. I never get tired of it, because I truly enjoy what I do.
Q: Why do you feel that Manhattan specifically was a great move within your construction career?
Clare McCormick: If you’re someone like me who’s new to the industry and really don’t have a long résumé of experience, Manhattan is the perfect place to apply. You begin gaining experience right away here. It’s better in a way than being trained or certified in just a classroom. At Manhattan, you get that hands-on training too, and your instructor is right beside you the entire time. They work side by side with their students, and after training, the instructors are craftspeople too, still currently active in the field.
Q: Because construction is traditionally a male-dominated field, do you feel you face any obstacles that differ from your male colleagues?
Clare McCormick: No, not at all. There are some tasks I personally am not physically capable of doing. I know how to do them, and Manhattan knows I know too. That job might just require another worker with more physical strength. Some men may not be able to get it done either. I don’t look at that as man versus woman; it’s simply for safety reasons. Based on physical capabilities, who can get this done the safest?
For example, lifting a valve that weighs so many pounds is out of the physical realms of some employees. Even then, though, you’re always working with a crew, so it’s not like anyone would lift a valve too heavy alone.
Nothing is biased. Just the opposite, I feel it’s pretty fair. I don’t get treated differently because I’m a woman. I am personally always working, I get called for all kinds of jobs. I would never be put in a position if they thought I couldn’t do it. Manhattan and my fellow colleagues know I can work just the same as anyone else.
Q: What advice would you give another woman looking to join the construction industry?
Clare McCormick: Go for it! Don’t be afraid. Any stigma that you think comes with joining this field — like, “this is a man’s job” — is untrue. You’ll feel that stigma disappear right away. All industries that have been predominantly male are becoming more versatile and diverse every day.
The construction industry also pays you your worth. Work hard, get the job done safely, and it pays off. Before I joined construction, I was working two jobs just to make ends meet and provide for my four children. Now, whether it’s days or nights that I come to work, I have the time to see my kids and provide for them in a way I couldn’t before.
I’m at a company that gives me peace of mind. It’s a fair company where I am always called to do a variety of jobs, and I always get paid my worth. It was truly the best career move. It’s worth it.