“Dad – I don’t think college is going to be the right avenue for me.”
Matthew Hopkins Jr. completed his first year of college knowing he had to make a change. After explaining his love for working with his hands and being outdoors, Matthew Hopkins Sr. was overwhelmed with a sense of empathy. Senior started his work in the trades at the age of 15 for the exact same reasons Junior was ready to switch career paths. The only difference was Senior had just joined the union two years earlier after years of non-union trade work.
Senior welcomed his son into the world of trade work but made himself very clear. “If you’re going to go into this type of work, it has to be with a union.”
Junior knew working with the union was the best option – he watched his father go from inconsistent seasonal jobs without benefits to a role that gave him steady employment, continued education and training, a decent wage, health insurance and a community that has started to become like a second family.
“I struggled for a lot of years and my son watched what I went through. He watched me put my life back together. The moment I joined the union, things really started to take off for me,” said Senior, noting that his ego had been the main reason he hadn’t become a union member earlier on in his career. Looking back now, Senior wishes he could have come to his senses sooner, but is pleased to have figured it out at all.
With the background of how the union helped his dad turned his life around, Junior quickly applied and enrolled in the training program in 2016, becoming an apprentice for Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1. Junior received hands-on training both in the classroom and even got to work on job sites with other journeymen, allowing him to work alongside his dad.
But this wasn’t the first time the two were on the job together. Their working relationship, beyond the inherent bond between father and son, started from an early age. Junior observed his father on work sites, offering to help on small jobs where he could. Junior developed his love working with his hands from a young age and adored shadowing his dad, understanding that construction work is more than daily tasks, but rather becoming part of something larger than one worker alone.
Now with one year completed of his three-year apprenticeship, Junior’s excitement on the job site and eagerness to learn motivates his hard work and constant questions to enhance his skills.
“The other guys say I’m too hard on him,” said Senior. “I constantly have to remind myself that being new to the trade can be daunting. I remember 20 years ago watching bricklayers complete tasks with such ease and speed. I try to share those memories with Junior, emphasizing that no matter what, it’s important to have the highest quality work product, even if it takes a little longer.”
And for Senior – getting to see his son do what they both love each day is a blessing, especially knowing that Junior will carry on the legacy of the highest quality craftsmanship while also setting up a comfortable life for the future, thanks to his union membership.