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Daphne Zigenfus is an Influence-Her
We got a crisis. It's crazy how many contractors I talk to in the course of a day and hear that if I only had and the rest of the sentence is 10 more people just can't get them.
I didn't really care for high school. I didn't think it was worth my time. You know, I could go to McDonald's without a GED or diploma and that was my mindset going into it.
Students at high school age should be able to take opportunities like this and turn them into life sustaining career objectives, right? You should be able to experience what it's like to be in a plumbing class. We all know that's not the way the world spins today. It's getting better, but a lot of students are pushed into the academic track and never even know this exists. In some areas in the country. We don't have schools like this.
I'm Craig Morgan this week on American plumber stories. We're going to Pennsylvania to meet Daphne Ziegenfuss. She would tell you that school was not her thing. However, it was in school where her passion for plumbing was ignited.
I thought high school was pointless in the beginning. Basically. Sat in the back of the class to watch Netflix or I fell asleep.
I didn't even think about college in high school. I took the SAT, just didn't care for it. I didn't wanna sit behind a desk. I didn't wanna work at an office building. I didn't wanna stare behind a computer all day. I always wanted to be hands on. It basically changed when I went to LCTI
LCTI is a career and technical education school. We have a complimentary high school program here that students can come all day, they can come half day. And LCTI is called Lehigh Career and Technical Institute. That's what that stands for because we truly think that we are darting learners into their career upon graduating high school. What are they going to go to college for, their career or they're gonna go in right into the workforce? We feel that that's what we're doing for our students in middle school to get into LCTI, you have to sign up in eighth grade year before you go to ninth grade. When I was picking out the list of what I wanted to do, I put number one as plumbing because before that, when I was in eighth grade I took a tour of all the labs and it was, it seemed really interesting.
And my instructor Mr. Midget, he said that if you have a spot here, if you wanna take it at first, uh, Daphne was shy as a rabbit. And, um, it took a little bit of going to get her out of that and get her out of that shell. And eventually she came out of that, she was always kind of more of the shy personality, a little bit more of an introvert, but she was not afraid to get dirty or touch wrenches. She wasn't afraid to pick up a piece of four inch cast iron in her throat on her shoulder. She just, you know, she was right into it. She had an interest, she wanted to do the work, she believed in what I told her and that you could be whatever you want to be in this. If you want to own your own female own plumbing business, you could do that right from here. This is where it's gonna start from this spot. I'm gonna be here. I'm not going anywhere. You can always come talk to me during your career just like I talked to everybody else that came from the school.
Ken midget was a plumber, sold his plumbing company and became a teacher. Everything he does he just takes to the next level. He took this, this class guided to the point where there's a waiting list to come into the class kid. Every student that's in that class that is eligible for any kind of co op or going out on a job is out there. He doesn't only teach them plumbing. He teach them life skills, the soft skills how to be a, a person. He just takes it to that next level.
Everyone called him coaching the Lamb when he was instructing me is that he was hands on. He made it very fair in lamb. He didn't care that I was a woman. All the work was equal, no matter your gender, no matter anything, he still helped you out. They knew I wanted to acquire more females. I realized that females should be working in the industry. The industry is hurting for people to work in it. And this was one way for me to help fill that void, to try to get females in here. And I used to say things to the ladies like there's no glass ceiling in the pipe trades, right? And they didn't understand what that meant. And I would do the whole spiel about how men were paid higher than women even in equal positions in the white collar world and how they, they weren't able to get escalate the same salaries. There's, there's no caps here. It's completely up to you how much you want to earn and where you want to go into your career.
Ken Midget and instructor at LCT. I has influenced many students over the years like Daphne herself as well as current influencer pays the plumber.
So Ken Midget is my teacher. He taught me all four years of plumbing and we call him coach. He's been an amazing mentor, super supportive. And one of the reasons I think that I didn't give up on myself and quit while I was still going to school, I am very passionate about working with my hands. Being in the industry, working on plumbing. II, I really thought being a plumber was my purpose. But then I really found my place as an advocate because when I shared my story, I saw how much inspiration and light it brought to other students. And I saw that passion that I had inside of me about the industry inside of them. And I wanna help them continue and grow that passion as much as I had that support system to help me grow. I wanna help these other people grow.
I wrote two children's books. It's a plumber page series. The first one is plumber page. Let's replace a shower head. And then the second one is plumber page. Let's fix a running toilet. This is the new one. I'm really proud of this one. These books are basically a step by step to instruct kids at home with guidance from their parents, how to do things at home, work with their hands and see that they can do stuff within their home. I like to say, I could add one person to the industry by joining it or I could add thousands of people into the industry by talking to kids.
Deluxe Plumbing & Heating. We're in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Me and my wife started in 2003, just me and her in the field. She was in the field with me for six years before we started bringing people on. At that time, we did a lot of cookie cutter housing, moved from that. Um I brought people in, you know, my brother and other people in to do that. I started the service department on the plumbing side about nine years ago. Now we started the HV AC department, uh, brought that in and that's almost all service.
And now we're doing uh electrical for about a year. Now, the roles I carry, I, I'm on a lot of the OAC boards, which is, which is occupational advisory committees for, I think six schools locally. I run the local apprenticeship program for the PHCC. I'm on two national committees for education through the PHCC. I'm on the National Nati committee. I'm a licensed lobbyist for the PHEC. So we go out and lobby for uh, the license and the apprenticeship. And I think that's I, I teach for uh, a certain path I used, I taught over 10 years for the PHCC for the local friendship program.
I've been doing this for over 10 years with these students bringing them in teaching them, Daphne was part of a group that came in. She was just a great fit. We look for attitude and we hire attitude. I want attitude over skill. Any day I can teach the skill and that's what we do here.
He took a chance on me. He gave me trainings. He put his faith in me that I was gonna do something and I was gonna be a plumber and he does that with a lot of people, half of the employees today are from LCC I, they graduated, they came here, they've been working here since high school.
So I knew right off the bat she had some skills and then when I saw her in the class and things do she was doing in the class, we knew she had a good hold on what she was doing.
We are going to install a faucet. The customer has a faucet that's been in there for X amount of years. He's not too sure because he just bought the home and he's just looking for new fixtures being a female plumber, especially my age. I do get a lot of negative comments. Um A lot of it. Are you sure you can lift it? Are you sure you've got it? I also got told that this is a man's job and you know, women shouldn't be in the industry. So there's a lot of negativity. So the perception of a woman in the field is that, you know, they don't know as much, but I think they can do a lot better than a male tech can out there.
I have a lot of people when they open the door. They're like, oh, wow. I'm not expecting a female plumber or. That's great. You're in the train.
Um, work with Daphne. It's a great experience. I'm a good person. Uh, definitely has made great strides in the field.
I work side by side with Daphne pretty often. Um We do a lot of sewers. We did a big job last week, probably one of my favorite text in.
So right now I am a plumbing technician. I hope to be a master plumber in order to be a master plumber. I have to get my journeyman in order to get my journeyman's. I have to have 6000 hours under a master plumber and I have to go to school for three years. I do not pay for that though because I am very lucky to have a employer like Larry that pays for it. After that, I can take my journeyman's test, become a qualified journeyman, work for a year with my journeyman's license and then I have to take a test to get my master's
Daphne going to vote tech changed her world. She went in there as a follower. She came out a leader every time I'm on the job site, I see plumber or something. I said, yeah, I tell my daughter's a plumber and makes me proud and we're so proud. Yeah, we're so proud of her because like when I mention it to at work that my daughter is a plumber, the guys are just like, what did you just say that? Right? I'm like, yeah, she's a plumber in the beginning of plumbing. I felt like I didn't belong. I was an outcast, didn't talk to anyone as of now in plumbing. I just feel like I fit. I definitely appreciate this company for how they treated me like family and took me under their wing and being able to rely on them. Plumbing has definitely given me a life. Like I don't imagine myself doing anything else. I feel like if I never did plumbing, I'd fall into my sister's footsteps and I probably wouldn't have graduated high school.
I'm Daphne Ziegenfuss and I'm an American plumber.