Manchester Community College
Associate of Science in HVAC Systems, 2003
As a young person, Joel Pickering was head-strong and preferred to do things his own way.
“I was a bright kid, but I wasn’t motivated. I would go to class and read books, but I didn’t want to write papers. So, I barely graduated from high school. Because of that lack of motivation, I almost failed my first semester of college, too. Despite all that, I had a strong, independent streak. Looking back, I realized that it was a very good quality, but I just needed to find a way to channel it.”
From high school to MCC to local workforce
Joel wasn’t motivated by school in the typical sense: he was more hands-on – an experiential learner who wanted to work his way into what he wanted to do. He graduated from Stevens High School in Claremont while also taking classes in the plumbing and heating program at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, where he was introduced to Manchester Community College (MCC) during an open house.
“I decided then that after high school I was going to move to Manchester to go to school. There were only a few schools in the state that offered plumbing and HVAC programs. MCC seemed to have the best program, the best equipment and instructors that knew what they were doing.”
In the fall of 1998, Joel moved to Manchester and started working in the industry as a mechanic’s helper while finishing his program at MCC.
“I nearly flunked out that first semester. Then Allen Little, a professor who ran the heating program, made a big impact on me to get me into gear. He found a way to reach me. I thought about it over winter break. I went back the next semester with a fire in my belly and started doing everything that I needed to do. It was a big wake-up call.”
In 2003, Joel graduated near the top of his class at MCC.
“I took an entry-level job at NPI (Northern Peabody, Inc) and began working as an adjunct teacher in the evenings at MCC (Thanks to Allen, who was always an advocate of mine).”
Working his way up
Not long thereafter, a headhunter with Denron Plumbing reached out to Joel about an estimator position near campus.
“I took the job and worked my way up through the ranks. I realized I wanted to move into management, so I ended up going back to college in the evenings to finish my bachelor’s degree and eventually my MBA.”
In 2016, Al Terry Plumbing and Heating offered Joel a vice president position. So, he left Denron, but after a year and a half, Denron asked him to come back and take on more of a leadership role.
“I love this place. I always have! I came back with the title ‘service manager’ running the service department. In 2018, I became a partner, and a year after that, the Board of Directors voted me in as president.”
Through it all, Joel feels that his experience at MCC shaped his path and sense of community.
“I had to learn that I was responsible for myself. I was responsible for my own grades and whether I would pass or fail. MCC made me feel like I belonged, much like working at Denron. I was just a local kid that needed a good environment with good people, that was embedded in the community.”
“Manchester Community College will always be near and dear to my heart.”
It’s been a little over 20 years, but Joel still stays involved with MCC.
“I’ve been on the college’s HVAC program advisory board with other industry leaders to guide the curriculum at MCC for over five years. Denron is also listed as a primary donor for the school’s program, and whenever we’re looking for people, we try to get them from the MCC program.”
The HVAC program at MCC also has a scholarship in Allen Little’s name, the now-retired professor who kicked Joel into gear years ago.
“Allen was an incredible person. He was the one who called me after I graduated to become an adjunct. He was always an advocate of mine and spoke highly of me, which really helped me in my career.”
Looking back on his education and career, Joel has this advice for current students:
“You get out of life whatever you put into it. If you put in a ton of work, you ‘ll get better results. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get where I am today. Manchester Community College was the first step for me, which is why it will always be near and dear to my heart.”