My Experience at APEX
My love for carpentry has lead me to try the general construction program at APEX technical school. The curriculum of that program is liberal rather than specialized. Students spend a month in plumbing, another in electrical, two months in carpentry, and two months in kitchen & bath. To help those that are curious about trade school, I will share my experience at Apex. This review only applies to the general construction program however. With that being said, let us begin!
The plumbing instructor is Mr L, a relaxed man with ton of swag and plumbing experience. I learned how to install water closets (toilets), sinks, bathtubs, urinals, and even showers. We also focused on auxiliary skills like soldering, pipe cutting, and materials recognition.
The plumbing module was excellent, for it emphasized the repetition of a few practical skills rather than covering a lot of plumbing knowledge superficially. Within a week, I was able to purchase a high end bowl sink for my bathroom and did the entire installation myself. My confidence was soaring!
The next module is electrical. Unlike the straightforwardness of plumbing, electrical involved many abstract concepts. I learned about Ohm's law, electrical wiring, reading diagrams, serial and parallel circuits, etc. College physics greatly aided me in this module, but for those to whom this material is entirely new, digesting all this may be a struggle.
Although theory was a breeze, the electrical workshops were not so intuitive to me. Many of my shop experiences were blurry. I struggled at writing diagrams. I found myself wiring lights and receptacles slowly, sometimes finishing last.
The class instructor, Mr Grange, is an electrical engineer. His explanations were very rapid so I found myself frequently falling behind. What saved me in electrical were fellow students… A particular student named Ravindra Ally was the hero of this module. This man probably saved over half the class.
Carpentry one was a humbling experience. This module focused on designing a miniature house. The idea is that by making students build a mini home, many carpentry fundamentals building would be grasped. Although great in theory, this idea was a catastrophe in implementation.
The model house students are assigned were far too complex for beginners. Many of the angled cuts required for roofing were very difficult for beginners like myself. I got so many cuts wrong and became so frustrated that the idea of quitting crossed my mind a few times.
Despite the bitter struggle, I decided to push on. With the help of an instructor named Mr. Gomez, I was able to overcome many setbacks. After a grueling month of carpentry one, I had learned a tremendous amount about roofing and framing. I also gained a newfound respect for simple tools like the Miter Saw.
My team and I finished our model house and hurried to carpentry two without looking back. Overall, I think carpentry one should reduce its complexity and focus on simple fundamentals.
Carpentry two is by far the best module in this entire program. The instructor is Mr Widell, a salty craftsman with heavy commercial building experience. This is the module where I learned what field construction is really about. Many real carpentry applications such as flooring, framing, stairs, common difference, roofing, shimming, vinyl siding, etc. was actually performed. This section represents trade school at its finest.
Although carpentry two blew out my learning expectations, the instructor’s style of teaching was strict and unforgiving at times. Mr. Widell is an instructor that knows his material. He also pushes students and does not play games. Those who are looking for a chill time will not like him. Worry not however, because if he senses your lack of motivation, he will cease bothering you. After all, you are an adult, and its your money that funds tuition. I give carpentry two a 9 out of 10.
Kitchen and Bath
My experience with Kitchen and Bath is rather mixed. The instructor, Mr Gomez is a skilled craftsman and artist whose eye for taste I appreciate. The instructor and I got along very well, so I found this module quite enjoyable. Many in the class did not share my sentiments however, and preferred a less grandiose objective than what the instructor had in mind. This module also experience some logistical challenges in term of supplies, but I believe the real world of construction is no different.
Despite these hiccups, Kitchen & Bath is by far one of the most potent course of this entire training. It forces you to apply all the plumbing, electrical, and carpentry knowledge you have learned. You will work with metal studs and tracks. You will create plumbing lines, and electrically wire entire rooms. You will also get a taste of demolition, a vital component of construction. If there is one place to pay attention, it is kitchen & bath.
In the dimension of learning, I actually give APEX an 8 out of 10. If learning is what you seek, you will not be left wanting. However, the school has certain flaws you should be aware of. First, the restrooms are in an abominable state. I am not sure if the facilities staff or unclean students are to blame, probably both!
Second, there is constant monitoring at Apex, almost as if you’re in prison. There is always a staff member roaming the hallways and rearing their head inside the classroom to check if “things are ok”. That made me cringe!
Lastly the student population can be a rough bunch. Many of them are either former military or kids who grew up in the tough parts of New York. The school is certainly safe but its an environment for those with a tough skin. I actually believe this to be a good thing, for it does reflect the field quite well.
If you can deal with filthy bathrooms, staff periodically behaving like prison guards, and edgy students, you should be fine at Apex. Considering the small price of trade school when compared to college, I say going there is a winning deal. The knowledge you will learn there is applicable to both yourself and employers.
As parting word… I want to say that the greatest experience at APEX for me was my fellow classmates. I still miss them to this day. I believe my class was quite special. They have taught and inspired me so much! My class became a community. Over time students adopted clear roles. Rodolfo Reynoso was the class leader, Dennis Cox was the influencer, Jorge Guerrero was the seasoned wise man, James Jimenez was the ladies man, etc. Everyone in that class had touched me in some way. I wish success for them all!
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