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Three Voices of Cullum: Johnny, Jared, and Earl

Finding Success in the Mechanical Trades

Johnny, Safety Supervisor

Johnny Lucas is a friendly and approachable guy in his second career — a career he is deadly serious about. Johnny is a Safety Supervisor for Cullum on both the service and the construction sides of the business, which is a role that he and others at the company know can mean the difference between a quiet commute home and a life-changing injury.

In his pre-Cullum life, Johnny worked as a Gas Turbine technician on destroyers and cruisers in the U.S. Navy; he entered the military out of high school and retired in his late 30’s, seeking a new career in the private sector. He found Cullum Constructors at the suggestion of a friend and began his new career in the role of Helper, believing that he knew nothing about construction and prepared to learn the business from the ground up. He was quickly promoted to General Foreman when both he and his company supervisors discovered that his years in the Navy had given him more skills and knowledge in their field than any of them had realized.

From there, he became Safety Supervisor, which has allowed him to discover his love of training. “At first,” Johnny admitted, “I was uncertain when they told me that training was part of this new role. But it didn’t take long for me to say, ‘This is ME. This is what I DO.’”

Additionally, he was asked to represent Cullum at a local career fair, something that he had never done before; he wasn’t sure he would know what to say to students.

“Once I got there, though…” Johnny paused, then grinned. “It was the best thing ever! I loved it…I couldn’t wait for the next one!”

Johnny discovered what so many other Skilled Professionals have found: the job can change from day to day and from year to year, which keeps it fresh and exciting. The more time a pro dedicates to learning his craft, the more opportunities are available to personlize your role in the company.

According to Johnny, Cullum Mechanical handles Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, Ducting, Plumbing, and Mechanical Piping. It’s hard for a non-tradesman to really appreciate what all that entails; touring a job site like a manufacturing facility currently under construction can provide a visual representation of just how much of the internal structure Cullum has responsibility for. Essentially, they handle the veins and arteries in the body of the building, ensuring that all the air and water flow smoothly and consistently. And Johnny ensures that everyone providing those services can go home safely each night.

Jared, Welding Apprentice

Jared Rosenberg has been an apprentice with Cullum for just under a year; at only 18 years old, he is excited about the money he is making, the skills he is learning, and the team who is working with him to help him work his way up in the company. Jared is a Welding Apprentice, but isn’t handling any welding on work sites yet because he is still in classes to get certified.

He first had an opportunity to try his hand at welding during Boy Scout camp as a youth; he remembered enjoying it and took classes at the district CTE center during high school to get more experience. At the same time, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue welding as a career; he also considered going to P.A. school and took sports medicine classes to learn more about that path, as well.

While at a job fair during his senior year at West Ashley High School, he learned about the many Cullum Apprenticeship opportunities and arranged to shadow Johnny so he could learn more about the company and the career path available to him. Although his parents were initially apprehensive about Jared foregoing P.A. school, he convinced them that joining Cullum was a sound career choice; by July of that year, he was a full-time apprentice, working from 6:00 am until 2:30 pm weekdays, which allowed him to take class in the evening.

As a Cullum Apprentice, he will complete a 4000-hour/two-year program with Trident Tech in Charleston, then another 4000 hours of work/class with Cullum to complete the company apprenticeship program. He is happy with the pay and benefits and understands that he is in control of his future with the company: “I determine what my bonus will be; the harder I work, the better I do.”

Although Jared is technically a Welding Apprentice, he is working for now as a Pipefitter at the main Cullum site, fabricating piping for upcoming projects based on specs provided by the Project Managers. He enjoys learning this new skill set, and he appreciates being able to go on-site for the installation process to see the finished product, too.

Earl, Service Manager

Earl Johnson oversees the team providing preventive HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical maintenance for contracted clients, plus repair work for commercial clients, through the Cullum Services, Inc. A common benefit of working in the mechanical service industry — at least from Earl’s perspective — is that no two days are alike; some days are downright awesome, like the days he spent traveling to Lacrosse, Wisconsin, to learn about the latest advances in equipment while visiting a state he had never seen. Earl appreciates every opportunity he has had during his more than six years with Cullum.

Cullum Services, Inc. has several crews that provide assistance to their many clients: the Maintenance Crew, which handles the preventive HVAC work for contract clients; the Service Crew, which handles the service calls for those same clients; and the Installation Crew, for upfits and new installs for clients. Additionally, there are plumbers and electricians who provide service to all clients as needed.

Earl grew up working alongside his grandfather on a 20-acre farm, which allowed (read: forced) him to learn the inner workings of farm machinery and such. His father and uncle worked at the local tire factory that also had been the work home to both of his grandfathers, but he was encouraged to spread his wings and learn a different trade.

Earl was not initially overly-focused in high school on classwork or on finding a career path – he loved baseball and had hoped to keep playing in junior college – but he soon discovered that he would need to come up with a new plan. To that end, he attended a local career fair and, on a whim, signed up for an HVAC course through Fayetteville (NC) Tech; he found that he really enjoyed working with his hands and using his natural mechanical abilities, and a career was born. He got his Associates Degree in A/C, Heating, and Refrigeration Technology and went directly to the commercial side of things, working at the local hospital for a couple of years.

Earl and his then-soon-to-be wife moved to the Charleston, SC, area so she could pursue nursing at MUSC; at the age of 22, he found a job as a Preventive Maintenance Technician at Cullum and has never looked back. He performed so well, he was soon promoted to a Service Tech position. He was then transferred to Building Automation, then back into Preventive Maintenance as a manager. Now, before he has even celebrated his 30th birthday, he is the Service Manager and oversees the whole team.

Cullum: A Culture of Family, Service, and Pride

Cullum understands that the most satisfied employees have a solid work-life balance; dissatisfaction in one area can bleed into other areas, which is not good for anyone. The general schedule for techs is 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, with one week of call each quarter. Taking call provides an excellent opportunity for overtime; Cullum is happy to acknowledge this and appreciates highly-motivated workers, but the company definitely encourages employees to develop strong personal lives, as well. To promote a healthy balance, Cullum creates opportunities for relaxed employee interactions, hosting holiday parties and family gatherings throughout the year at each of its locations in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville.

At the heart of it all, Cullum strives to provide excellent mechanical services and dependable commercial installations to all its clients. It is also dedicated to building up the next generation of skilled workers, partnering with apprenticeship programs like those at Trident Tech and with workforce development initiatives like Be Pro Be Proud SC, which introduces students around the state to careers in the trades using a mobile workshop filled with hands-on simulators and VR technology. 

When it comes right down to it, whether you are fresh out of high school, a young journeyman, or a seasoned professional, there is a home for you at Cullum. Furman Cullum put his name on the company when he founded it in 1972, and he and his family have delivered on their promises for the last fifty years; with the help of dedicated employees like Johnny, Jared, and Earl, they should be continuing to deliver for another fifty years and beyond.

See more inspiring stories like this one from Be Pro Be Proud HERE.