Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school
Over the summer, my friend offered me a full-time job to help his father’s company. His dad has an HVAC, heating ventilation and cooling, company where he takes old houses in the Cleveland area and replaces all their furnaces and air conditioners. This was a great opportunity for as I would be working upwards of forty hours a week. I knew that working in a trade would mean that I would be working with my hands a lot, however there were some elements to the field that I did not expect. Many people that enter one of the three trades do not go attend college or even finish high school. This does not mean that their jobs do not use literacy and communication.
When you get to a job site, you are immediately met with the general contractor. The general contractor is the person that oversees the three trades, electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling, and makes sure that everyone is on the same page. The general contractor is detrimental to the job and makes sure that none of the trades interfere with each other. This was my first experience with the importance of communication. Understanding what is expected from you when you enter any place of work is extremely important. When you make a mistake on a house or apartment, whether it be involving one of the other trades or your responsibility, it often costs money to repair or fix. For example, when running the heat from the furnace to its destination you must cut a hole into the trunk line. This is a big piece of aluminum that is connected to the furnace and acts as the supply of heat for the house. How big that you cut into the trunk line depends on how much heat the room needs. With that being said, not all rooms are the same and different measurements are needed for each room. At times you may cut a seven-inch hole but have a six-inch pipe to complete the run. Then you either need to cover the hole and find a new spot to run the pipe or buy a new piece to fit the six-inch pipe. This will either come directly out of the general contractor’s pay or the landowner’s pockets. A miscommunication like this can cause tension or even, if more severe, get you kicked off the job site. The importance of communication in the field of heating and cooling was not something that I expected.
Communication is also important when getting material for the location that you’re working at. Many times, only one person will go to the supply store and fetch all of the materials that the whole group needs. This is when communication needs to be precise. If the person that is going to order and bring the materials back to the job site does not know everything that the group needs, then they’ll have to go back and get the materials that they forgot. Often this can be a complete waste of time when the job site is far from the material store. We have learned to incorporate writing into this part of our job. Everyone writes down what they need for the tasks that they need to finish by the end of the day. That way there is no miscommunication when it comes to buying what we need. As previously stated, when connecting the pipe that goes from the supply to the rooms you must take in account a couple of concerns. First, the amount of pipe that you need. You and the person that is going to buy the supplies should know how much pipe total that you will both need to make all your connections. Also, you will need to what size of pipe that you will need to make each individual connection. Next, you will need to take into consideration how the connection will be finished. Not all connections are the same. With that being said, each connection will be unique and need its own unique pieces. Sometimes you may need to misdirect the pipe in order to avoid some of the other trades finished work. All of this can be accomplished with the help of planning and writing. Writing also plays more roles in heating and cooling, but one that is very significant is measurements. When taking measurements, it is always nice to write the measurement somewhere that way you do not forget. If you have a long period in between the time you take the measurement and the time you need to use that measurement, then you may use the wrong number or must take the measurement again. Communication and writing play huge factors in my day-to-day tasks.
Lastly, reading plays a role in working on renovation and heating and cooling. At the house or apartment, depending on the area, each trade has their own blueprints. Blueprints are the instructions that are designed for that specific building.
For example, in a blueprint that we received for one of our job sites, the whole house is outlined room by room, making sure that there is no discrepancy where you are at in the house. In the top left is a key that tells you what each line and symbol mean. For example, the quarter circles in each room indicate where the door will be. This helps the workers in the trade orient themselves. Also, in each room the vents that supply the heat are illustrated. Each symbol has a number next to them letting the worker know what type of vent and what the measurements are needed for these vents. Being able to read and comprehend these blueprints is tremendously important. The blueprints give you the foundation of vents that run through the whole house and produce heat and air conditioning for each room. Reading is also incorporated into my job when we get material from the supply store. At times, the people that pull the supplies do not always grab all the necessary items. Sometimes we need to go over the receipt and check over to make sure that we got all the items we ordered.
When I received the opportunity to work with my hands, I was extremely excited. I was excited to learn something new and learn some tools that I could carry on for the rest of my life. I knew very little about the occupation or the field in general, but I did not expect it to have as much communication, writing, and reading. Most of the communication comes from talking with the other trades and the director of the job site. All the material that is purchased and used needs to be documented and accounted for. This is where a lot of the reading and writing is incorporated into the job. The price of the material needs to be summed up and compared to with the budget. Lastly, when arriving at the site, blueprints are presented to all three trades. It is their job to read and comprehend them and make sure that they can finish the job by the deadline. The combination of reading, writing and communication is not something that I expected, but it is detrimental to the day-to-day work tasks.