Granite State Trade School will teach the newbies and provide continuing education for licensing credentials
By Kathleen D. Bailey Special to the Union Leader, Aug 13, 2023
Jim Fusco gestured to a PowerPoint slide depicting a natural gas tank. “Is this correctly installed?” he asked a group of intent students at his Granite State Trade School in Raymond.
“No, of course not,” Fusco answered his own question. “It’s in front of a window.”
On a hot July morning, the vehicles in Fusco’s parking lot represented a number of household names, at least for house owners: Heritage Plumbing and Heating. Mr. Rooter. Paul the Plumber. The trucks and vans spilled over to an unpaved overflow lot, and almost crowded that out. License plates told another story: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, even one from Maine. The natural gas professionals from three states had come to Raymond to learn about changes in their profession, and to requalify toward making their clients’ homes comfortable and safe.
Inside the building, men sat at comfortable desks, big enough for a guy to spread out, and take notes on their phones or the printed material Fusco has provided. Fusco, a genial silver-haired man, explained a PowerPoint listing the changes in natural gas installation. His two miniature poodles, Book and Page, wandered around courting scratches behind the ears.
Fusco and his wife Janice opened Granite State Trade School LLC in 2007. Fusco had worked as a licensed plumber in Massachusetts. “I’ve been a plumber all my life,” he said. He owned his own business across the border. He came to New Hampshire to work for Energy North as a trainer in natural gas and propane services.
When his position with Energy North disappeared in a merger, Fusco decided to go out on his own. He had the content knowledge and the teaching skills. He taught from facilities on the Route 28 Bypass in Hooksett and East Industrial Park in Manchester before finding the freestanding building on Old Manchester Road in Raymond. The building had formerly housed special education services, so the zoning was already in place for a school. They moved into the Raymond building in December 2013.
Fusco’s first official courses in the new digs were classes to be licensed as a gas technician in the state of New Hampshire. He moved from there to training plumbing apprentices. He now offers training in oil, gas, plumbing, heating and electrical work, both on a basic level and for continuing education for professionals in the field.
In 2007-08 Fusco taught 40 to 50 students per year. “Now it’s a few hundred,” he said. He makes use of outside instructors and is always looking for more.
Though Breton lives in Maine, he works a lot in New Hampshire, and he said he is required to take his classes in the Granite State. But it’s worth it, Breton said. “It’s very important to keep up with the changes.”
Ron Waitkus has been in the field for 18 years and has attended several of Fusco’s sessions. “Jim is very knowledgeable,” Waitkus said during a break. “He’s good at putting things in laymen’s terms. And if he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll find out.”
Over 18 years, it’s become important for Waitkus to find those answers. “There has been a lot more thought about safety,” he said.
Tom Makarow works for Paul the Plumber out of Derry, and has been in the field 12 years. “It’s good to know the code changes,” he said. “The code changes frequently. It’s gonna happen.”
Many of Fusco’s students are already employed, in one of many fields, he said. They have to meet licensing requirements, so continuing education is a part of what he does. He said 95% of his students are already employed in one of the trades, adding that some high school students take more basic courses when they can fit them in. He has a separate training building in the rear for hands-on education.
Fusco recommends the trades as a career, noting, “There’s always steady employment.” The average age of a licensed plumber is 58, he said, “and there aren’t enough people coming up to fill these slots.”
Janice is a full partner in the business, running the office, taking registrations and helping Jim compile the booklets of updates needed for each continuing education session. “The state has specific requirements, and the instructors have to go every December for updates,” she said, adding that Fusco starts building his presentations a year in advance.
She’s proud of her husband, noting, “If someone calls and says, ‘Do you know such-and-such a code?’ Jim can recite it off the top of his head.”
For more information on Granite State Trade School, call 603-895-4444 or visit granitestatetradeschool.com.