Ulster BOCES Program Propels Man’s Career from Technician to Boss

Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Saugerties resident Antonio Pedrosa, it was the catalyst that propelled him from an entry-level job to a managerial position at Taconic Biosciences, which specializes in genetically engineered rodent models and breeding services.

When Antonio started working for Taconic Biosciences in 2006, he was responsible for cleaning the dirty cages of rats and mice. Thanks in part to the training and industry certifications he received at Ulster BOCES, Antonio now oversees a team of seven as the technical coordinator of the company’s mechanical department.

In 2018, Antonio enrolled in the Ulster BOCES Adult Electrical Apprentice program. By spring 2021 he took that newfound knowledge in electrical work to switch paths to enroll in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program, which enabled him to apply for a better opportunity within his company. Antonio took the EPA R-410A and the EPA Universal 608 exams and earned certificates in both. He then sat for the National Oilheat Research Alliance exam and earned his Bronze Level Certification, which is part of the Federal Clean Air Act and required for any technician who maintains, services, repairs, or disposes of appliances that contain regulated refrigerants.

Antonio accomplished all of this while learning English, working full time, raising three young children, and tending to all the livestock on his farm. “Before, I was a ‘good worker,’ but now, I have a profession,” Antonio emphasized.

Antonio’s wife Darlene, an investment advisor, had introduced him to Ulster BOCES one day when she took him and their children to an open house. Impressed by the Adult Electrical Apprentice program’s affordability and convenience, he eagerly signed up, despite being nervous about having been out of school for nearly 30 years. "I was excited to learn, but I was a little scared,” he recalled. “I asked myself, ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’”

Receiving a certificate after the first year was enormously gratifying, he said, and encouraged him to keep on his path. “It was a challenge, but I felt like, ‘Wow I did this,’” he remembered. He was also supported at home, which helped him stay on the track. “People put trust in you and believe in you. My wife had to watch the kids. There were a lot of sacrifices. It is a good feeling to know I can do this, and the sacrifices were for something.”

Since the Taconic Biosciences campus comprises more than 30 buildings, with complex heating and cooling systems, Antonio recognized the value of adding heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) training to his skill set. Knowing that a supervisory position was going to be open in a different department, he decided to pursue the HVAC certification to apply for the position, which he now holds today. “My boss told me he never would have interviewed me if I did not have the certification,” he said.

Taconic Biosciences Facilities Manager Steve Bathrick credits Antonio’s participation in the HVAC and electrical program for his impressive impact as a supervisor. “The Ulster BOCES programs have given Antonio a huge platform to continue developing his skills,” he said. “Antonio has transferred what he has learned to others who did not have a lot of knowledge in the field. This has helped him catch up to the mechanics who already had that experience. And now that we are hiring new people, he is also able to transfer his newly learned knowledge to those who did not have that experience or training.”

Feeling empowered by his vocational successes, Antonio added another goal: earning his High School diploma. He undertook the New York State High School Equivalency exam through the Ulster BOCES Adult Career Education Center but was still nervous despite his previous successes. His wife was encouraging, as were Ulster BOCES faculty and staff members, including Adult Career Counselor Carolyn Detweiler. “They said, ‘You got this!’ I was scared. It is amazing at my age, and there is still a way to go, I am not done yet,” he said.

Antonio has not kept the good news about Ulster BOCES a secret. He worked with Taconic Biosciences to get three mechanical employees approved to train through Ulster BOCES at the company’s expense. When Antonio’s adult son moved to New York, he got him enrolled in Ulster BOCES English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. His son now also works for Taconic Biosciences as a forklift driver and has begun taking welding classes at Ulster BOCES.

Antonio has one more professional goal written in his heart–the biggest yet. He said, “I would like to go on to get a college degree in management or business."

For more information on this or any other Ulster BOCES program, call the Career & Technical Education Center at 845.331.6680, or the Adult Career Education Center at 845.331.5050.

Headshot of Antonio Pedrosa