At a young age, Richard Craven recognized that he excelled working with his hands. His father had attended a technical high school, and so Craven looked into programs at Burlington County Institute of Technology (BCIT). He signed up for three exploratory subjects – plumbing, electrical, and carpentry – as well as a non-traditional course in printing. Then, he took a creative approach to choosing which area he’d pursue.
“I grabbed my parents’ phone book and called every plumber, carpenter, and electrician listed,” he explained. “I asked everyone who answered, ‘What is your hourly rate?’ and plumbing was the top!”
A 2004 graduate, Craven was one of the youngest students to earn Master Plumber certification because BCIT allowed him to participate in the work-study program. Most students spend four years in the technical high school, then four years in the apprenticeship program, then one as a journeyman before taking the Master Plumber test. But, during his four years at BCIT, Craven also worked in the field as an apprentice, and all of those out-of-school hours counted toward the apprenticeship. He completed the apprenticeship program in half the time.
“When I sat down to take the Master Plumber exam, the moderator said, ‘You’re in the wrong place,’ because I was younger than everyone else in the room,” he recalled.
Craven worked for another plumber briefly, but soon started his own business, Craven Plumbing in Maple Shade. The ensuing years have been eventful.
Seven years ago, Craven was working with only one helper when he was diagnosed with cancer. As a young man with no family history, he was shocked. He immediately began nine weeks of radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy infused for a continuous 96-hour period. His sister took over the office, answering phones for free while Craven endured the treatment. Worried that his business might start to slow down, he hired a second plumber.
“I like to say that my cancer was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to take a risk and expand my business,” he added. “I am healthy today, and my business has grown to two office staff and five plumbers.”
Craven’s determination to succeed, in both business and through his cancer battle, is a major factor in his success. He also credits BCIT with giving him a solid start.
“A lot has happened to me, and I have always been a hard worker, but I learned all of the skills needed in the plumbing industry at BCIT,” he stated. “The instructors in all my classes, not just plumbing, were knowledgeable and provided guidance. The school-to-work program allowed me to apply what I was learning in the real world and accelerated my progress. I am profoundly grateful for my experience at BCIT.”