In March 2020, Marcel Bobson reached a major accomplishment – he became a licensed journeyman plumber in the state of Texas. The path to this goal required patience and determination; Marcel completed 8,000 hours of training in four years, all while working a full-time job. The hard work and sacrifice paid off, however, when Marcel mastered the subject and passed the licensed plumber examination with flying colors.
Throughout this journey, Marcel knew he could count on the support of his co-workers at PRIDE, where he started as a Maintenance Trades Helper and now plies his trade as a certified plumber. “As a new journeyman plumber in these challenging times, it is my privilege to work with PRIDE Industries and to help keep our military families safe,” said Marcel.
The grit and perseverance required to reach his career goals were nothing new to Marcel, who has overcome many obstacles in his life. He grew up in the South American country of Suriname, and joined the Dutch Army after graduating high school. A military accident in 1982 caused him to completely lose hearing in his right ear and experience partial hearing loss in his left ear.
Because Marcel’s disability was newly acquired, he didn’t know sign language and struggled to communicate at first. Eventually, with the help of hearing aids, he regained the ability to speak with others.
About a decade after the military accident, Marcel moved to the United States. After meeting his future wife, who was stationed at Ft. Bliss, he moved to El Paso, TX. Marcel then enrolled at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where he took general courses in the Electrical Engineering Program for several months, but eventually decided to look for employment again.
For three years, Marcel searched for a permanent job position. Finding work seemed elusive, especially as his hearing loss began to worsen. Many employers were hesitant to hire someone with a disability. However, this all changed when Marcel joined PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss Commercial Facilities Management contract in 2014 as a Maintenance Trades Helper (following a referral from the Texas Workforce Commission) in the Electrical Shop. With Marcel’s impressive work ethic, the job proved to be a perfect fit, and he was promoted to General Maintenance Worker shortly after he started with PRIDE.
Marcel started an after-work apprenticeship program in 2015 which would make him eligible for the state plumbing exam. In 2016, he applied for and earned a General Maintenance Worker (GMW) position in the PRIDE-Ft. Bliss plumbing department. PRIDE’s Training Department paid for all his course fees, testing fees and his travel expenses related to his apprenticeship to help Marcel achieve his goal.
“As a GMW working with other plumbers, my daily job tasks include repairing plumbing fixtures, unclogging sewer lines, troubleshooting hot water heaters, installing sinks, and toilets. I find that plumbing is like solving a puzzle— I have to locate the leak or find which line is clogged up. At the end of the day, I like working with my hands and getting the job done!”
“A rewarding moment is when I was called to troubleshoot a building that had only hot water. A soldier personally thanked me for helping them out, and it felt great.”
While his professional career continued to prosper, Marcel’s hearing, unfortunately, continued to worsen. This factor made his job especially difficult since he could no longer understand instructions while in a warehouse environment. or during work service calls. To accommodate this change, PRIDE’s Vocational Rehabilitation department provided Marcel with a new cell phone with closed captioning, a larger screen, and notetaking apps. Marcel also started taking ASL sign language classes offered by PRIDE Job Coaches.
In 2018, Marcel learned that he qualified for cochlear implants, and decided to go through with the procedure. This process was an adjustment, as he initially experienced side effects of dizziness, and nausea.
“Despite the initial difficulty, I am now able to hear better. It took some effort, but with the continued help of my PRIDE Job Coach, I was ready to complete my job assignments again.”
Marcel never let any of these challenges get in his way of finishing his apprenticeship, and he ultimately passed the examination and was promoted to Plumber in March 2020.
“Marcel worked so hard for this accomplishment,” said Rehabilitation Counselor Shannon Bloxham. “He’s faced every obstacle that’s come his way with a positive attitude and persistence. I am proud of his accomplishments.”
Marcel is pleased with what he’s accomplished. But more than anything, he’s glad to be doing the work he loves, at a company where he has forged many friendships.
“My job means I can provide for my family while working in a career that I enjoy,” he says. “And I also like knowing that I’m contributing to PRIDE’s mission to help people with disabilities like me.”