Jackson Oloya enjoys working with his hands and learning something new every day.

But most of all, as a plumber apprentice learning his trade through the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, Oloya finds great satisfaction in doing good work.

“When I get the job done and I do it well, I feel so happy,” said Oloya, 17. “I love helping people. It’s a trade I can be successful in and make a good living.”

As Oloya graduates from Biddeford High School, he already has a job working for Jim Godbout, his mentor and employer since last year. Under a paid internship, Oloya worked for Godbout every weekday morning and attended classes at the high school each afternoon.

Once Oloya completes 4,000 hours of on-the-job training, he can take a test for Maine’s journeyman plumber license, according to the state’s website. After working an additional 2,000 hours as a journeyman plumber, he can take a test to become a master plumber. Plumbers in Maine earn an average of $50,000 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

One of 11 siblings, Oloya and his family came to the United States from Uganda when he was 3 years old. They lived in New York and Texas before settling in Maine.

He discovered his career last year, almost by accident.

“I had an open spot for a class, and my choices were debate, Asian history or plumbing,” Oloya recalled. “The others weren’t for me, but plumbing I liked. I enjoy putting things together, and I don’t want to be working in an office.”

Oloya acknowledged that plumbing can be a dirty, smelly job sometimes.

“At first it bothered me, but I got used to it,” Oloya said. “It’s just part of the job now.”

One recent morning, Oloya helped a master plumber convert a residential heating system from propane to natural gas. Next time, Oloya will get to do more of the job himself.

“I’m a visual learner,” he said, “so this training program suits me very well.”

Oloya credits his family, friends and co-workers with helping him succeed, especially Godbout.

“Jim’s a great guy. He treats everybody well and he has been very helpful and supportive to me,” Oloya said. “I just want to be successful and happy, and then help other people be happy and successful, too.”

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