Bill Esarey grew up in the Cleveland area with sheet metal in his blood. His father spent more than 50 years in the industry as a sheet metal worker and small-scale contractor.
As a 19-year-old high school graduate, Esarey knew that a sheet metal apprenticeship in Garfield Heights, Ohio, with his brother was the natural progression.
“My family was in sheet metal, so I’ve been around sheet metal as long as I can remember,” he said.
The project manager said apprenticeships were highly common back then and not everyone went to college, so today’s need for a degree is an unfamiliar concept.
“I think what happens nowadays is, if a parent is a sheet metal worker, they think, ‘Oh, I don’t want my kid doing this,’” he said.
“They say, ‘I want them to go to college, get a degree.’ Unfortunately, I think while the parent may mean well, too many young people that go to college and get a degree come out with all this debt...whereas...once you learn the trade, you then have a marketable skill.”
And a marketable skill was exactly what a young Esarey had when he was a third-year apprentice. However, he decided to leave the trade career path to go into sales for a decade.
He came back to the fab shop to work for his father and two other companies from 1990 to 1999, but work “opportunities were drying up” near his hometown.
“In my business, in my opinion, you have to go where the work is,” he said. “There wasn’t much work in [the Cleveland] area.”
He then joined a large mechanical company in Tennessee and traveled south to Texas, Virginia, and Florida to perform their on-site project management. He ended up working on once-in-a-career projects like the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida.
“You...basically start out as a sheet metal worker,” Esarey said. “And you work your way up, so that opportunity is there, whether you want to be a foreman, a superintendent. There’s a great opportunity for advancement if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to be disciplined.”
For the last four and a half years, the sheet metal veteran lived in Rockville and worked for a mechanical company in Gaithersburg, citing the D.C. corridor as “one of the booming areas” due to an influx of new construction.
Without a second thought, Esarey left that local company about ten months ago when there was a job opening at Kaempf & Harris.
“When this opportunity came up, I jumped at it,” he said.
He was already “looking to make a change,” and called Kaempf & Harris “one of [those] organizations where the reputation precedes them” with quality work and good people.
“I like the company,” he said. “I plan on staying here a long, long time.”