David Gerena cuts up an old water pipe at Harriman State Park.

BEAR MOUNTAIN — When co-workers notice the posters advertising classes through the NYS & CSEA Partnership for Education and Training pinned onto the union bulletin boards at work, CSEA member David Gerena makes a point of sharing his story.

Gerena, a Palisades Interstate Parks Local member, has seen firsthand the value of the training opportunities offered to CSEA-represented state workers via their union contract. In December, he graduated from the plumber and steamfitter program offered through the Partnership’s Applied Skills Trades Program. 

The program helped Gerena sharpen existing skills and learn new ones, all at no cost to him.

“If I see people reading about the programs, I encourage them to sign up,” said Gerena, a trades generalist assigned to refurbishing group camps within Harriman State Park. “By attending the classes in the plumber and steamfitter program, it’s helping me now with my job.”

On a recent project at one of the campsites, initially built starting in 1913, Gerena said skills he learned from his instructor left him better prepared as he and co-workers refurbished a shower house, a project that included modifying plumbing underneath the building to add toilets. 

Outside of work, Gerena said he sees where his recently acquired skills will pay off.

“When I own a house, I will be able to do a lot of renovation work myself instead of having to call a plumber,” said Gerena. “I like my current job and the variety of different stuff we do, so it wasn’t about a promotion as much as it was just building up my skills.”

Gerena said the instructor from the Partnership was excellent and kept he and his classmates engaged, even though hurdles due to COVID meant pivoting to online learning for part of the program.

“This was their first time teaching part of this program online,” said Gerena. “I used my phone and sat in the conference room at work, along with the others from my region. We were able to work on classes such as blueprint reading and workplace communication.”

Once COVID numbers declined, workers were able to complete hands-on learning by completing some of the plumbing work in the Harriman State Park camps.

Gerena encourages his fellow state division members to consider the training opportunities offered through the Partnership. The classes are one of the many things that show the added value that comes with a union contract.

“If you’re on the fence, give the program a try,” said Gerena. “I’m glad I went ahead and took the class.” 

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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