William Frost, of Stoneham, was a Class of 2013 Automotive Technology major at Minuteman High School. He transferred into Minuteman his junior year and credits his experience here with improving his grades and career prospects. After working in the automotive field, Frost transitioned into a career as a pipefitter, working on HVAC systems for major construction projects. He is a member of the Pipefitters Union Local 537 in Boston and employed full-time with Walsh Mechanical Contractors of Abington.
Q. As a transfer student, your story is a bit unique. Why did you enroll at Minuteman your junior year?
I always enjoyed working on cars. My high school had an automotive program, and halfway through my sophomore year it was eliminated. On top of that, my grades were not good at all. I wasn’t motivated, I didn’t see how my classes applied to my life, and I was missing school.
Minuteman turned everything around for me. Minuteman was more of a family feel. The teachers respected you. The communication between the teachers and the students was so much greater – both on the vocational side and the academic side. I came into Minuteman with a 1.9 grade point average and when I graduated, my GPA was a 3.9. At my old school, I was absent 100 days in one year; at Minuteman I had perfect attendance for the two years I was here. I became very close with my automotive teachers, Mr. Flood and Mr. Melanson. This place really turned it around for me.
Q. What did you enjoy about Minuteman?
They teach you life skills. When I was in math class, I was learning about interest rates, bi-weekly pay, how to pay your taxes, and how to balance your checkbook. I remember in my physics class, Mr. Marshall created a lesson on (motor vehicle) gear ratios, which I thought was so cool. When I told him I owned a 1999 Dodge Dakota, he had me study the gear ratios for my actual vehicle. I loved that.
Q. How did you excel in the Automotive Technology program?
Mr. Flood always told me, ‘Your education is what you put into it.’ I really took that message to heart. I walked out of here with every certification that was offered to me. Every test I took, I passed. My senior year, I went to the SkillsUSA competition and I won awards. I got the confidence I needed. I could show you all the cars I have built, and the cars I still build. I would come back to Minuteman in the summers and work on cars with Mr. Flood. I got so much knowledge out of that.
Q. How did you transition into pipefitting?
After high school, I started working in automotive. I got a job as an alignment and lube tech at Lawless Chrysler in Woburn. I did mostly oil changes and beginner work. From there, I worked at Chaotic Custom Exhaust in Wakefield, which is a high-performance auto shop. We’d fabricate custom exhaust systems, put super chargers on cars, lift kits on trucks – all high-end, custom work and a lot of welding.
After about four years, a neighbor approached me about joining the Pipefitters Union. He said that because I was mechanically inclined, I’d be a good fit for it. In June of 2017, I got an acceptance letter from Local 537 and I’ve been working with them ever since.
Q. What is pipefitting and what are some projects you have worked on?
Pipefitting is like being a mechanic for a building and its HVAC system. Instead of being a mechanic for a car, you’re a mechanic for a building. It’s being a mechanic on a much bigger scale.
My first big job was the construction of the Mathworks building in Natick. Right now (spring of 2021), we’re working on the Bristol Myers Squibb facility in Devens, which specializes in cell therapy and cancer research.
What I love about my job is you’re literally putting a footprint on the world. At Bristol Myers Squibb, they’re doing cutting edge cancer research. People in my union worked on the Pfizer building in Cambridge, where they’re working on COVID vaccinations. Imagine saying I built the lab where they found the COVID vaccine?
Q. What advice would you give new students at Minuteman?
My father always told me that if you ever get an opportunity in life to do something different, try it out. The worst is you don’t like it and you can go back to what you were doing before. Every skill you learn in life is a key to your success. It doesn’t matter if you stay with the major you took in school, it will apply somewhere in your life.