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Texas Apprentice

image Ezekiel Rodriguez NTCA University Apprenticeship J&R Tile

SAN ANTONIO - Ezekiel “Zeke” Rodriguez entered the construction industry doing tile because his uncle, Triniti Vigil, intro-duced him to the trade. As he learns from his uncle, he has also enrolled in an apprenticeship program that he expects to complete this year.





    The online tile installer appren-ticeship program through National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) is supposed to take about three years to complete, but Rodriguez spends a lot of his spare time doing the coursework, and in his first year, he has already completed all of the tile-related courses. He only needs to complete the ones that cover business-related areas now.
    Meanwhile, Rodriguez works at J&R Tile where his uncle has worked for about 10 years. His uncle is a Certified Tile Instal-ler (CTI), and Rodriguez aims to become one in the future. While Rodriguez has other family members in construction, his Uncle Triniti is the only one in tile. After seeing what his uncle does, he decided that’s what he wanted to do.
    He started at J&R at the same time that he began his apprenticeship. At 24 years old, Rodriguez is simultaneously taking online apprenticeship classes and working toward earning his GED through an online program. He attended John Jay High School, but left during his senior year and went to work at a factory.
    Before his uncle introduced him to the tile trade, Rodriguez worked at a few different factories, including Sterling Foods, where his father has worked since around the time Rodriguez was born. Rodriguez packaged boxes or doors, and the jobs left him wanting more. When he found tile, he found something that he says is interesting and different every day. At J&R, he does a little bit of everything, including setting tile and making cuts – anything that’s needed. He is also a pre-apprentice trainer, teaching new hires the trade as he learns it.
    Meanwhile, he works on his apprenticeship. The online courses offer him a lot of flexibility to take the 423 hours of classroom required for the Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship program. The classes include videos and quizzes, which he needs to score 80 percent or better on to pass. He also needs to log 6,000 work hours.
    Though Rodriguez spends most of his spare time on his online classes, he enjoys time with his family, including his sister, who attends the University of the Incarnate Word, and he helps take care of his little brother, who is handi-capped. Rodriguez also enjoys reading and watching movies. –mh

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Mary Hazlett mary@constructionnews.net