In April 2018 I applied to the electrician's apprenticeship. Previously I had had no experience as an electrician or in construction at all. I had a bachelor's degree in sociology and work experience at non profit organizations and lots of customer service jobs.
About a month after applying to the apprenticeship I got a letter in the mail inviting me to take the test to qualify for an interview. I took the test and it was pretty easy. It had some algebra which got as complex as graphing on a four quadrant graph. I had studied ahead of time on khanacademy.org to brush up on my algebra so it was fresh in my mind and the test wasn't hard for me.
About five or so weeks after taking the test I got a letter in the mail offering me a place in the pre-apprenticeship program which I was not even aware existed at the time. The pre-apprenticeship program is run by the Department of Labor and is aimed at getting more diversity into the electrician's union. They pay less than the apprenticeship but it's a short program and it gets your foot in the door and is really valuable experience especially if you have no construction experience. I thought it was crazy that I was being offered this position without having been interviewed but I didn't really question it and I took it.
I quit my waitressing job immediately and started the program in August 2018. They gave me a set of Klein tools, text books for class, and I was dispatched to a job site to start work.
I now work 40 hours a week and go to class two nights a week as pre-apprentice. Since pre-apprentices are not technically in the union we still had to interview to get into the apprenticeship. After you interview they mail you a score based on how well you did in the interview. This gives you a general idea on where you place on the list of applicants that are eligible to get called when the next apprenticeship cohort starts.
I did my interview not too long ago and got a very good score. They are also very eager to hire women and minorities into the apprenticeship (which is probably a big reason I got offered the pre-apprenticeship besides my test score) so I feel really good about my chances of getting in.
Even if I get into the apprenticeship I do need to complete the pre-apprenticeship which will be over in June. Until then I am employed full time and am sometimes offered overtime when it's available and I go to class two nights a week. If for some reason I don't get in to the next apprenticeship group they can extend my time as a pre-apprentice until I start as an apprentice.
I have been working for about four months now and I love it. I'm learning so much and I'm kind of in a place where I feel like I know what I'm doing and when I'm asked to do something that I don't really know what to do I at least know enough to be able to ask questions so I can understand what's expected of me. At first they'd ask me to do a task and I'd just have to admit that I didn't know what they meant and they'd need to explain what materials and tools I would need and would have to show me an example of what to do. That's ok though because I've been lucky to work with very patient people who are happy to explain things as long as they can tell you're putting in real effort and are motivated to learn and work hard. There's about 20 other people in my class as well and most of them have no construction experience either so they're learning as they go as well.
I don't want to give out exact figures but though I don't make very much right now as a pre-apprentice (I actually make substantially less than I did as a waitress) I am really grateful for this opportunity because I really enjoy the work and once I get into the actual apprenticeship things will only get better from there. I'll get regular pay increases, learn more information, get more skilled, and after 5 years as an apprentice I'll be an journeyman which means I'll be done taking required classes and will have a lot more freedom to choose the conditions I work under. And once I'm a journeyman there are continuing education classes I can take whenever I want that are offered for free to get more specialized skills like welding which I'm really excited about.
Aside from some obvious benefits to this new career I'm pursuing like having a Monday through Friday morning and daytime schedule with holidays off and getting a regular paycheck, I am really enjoying the work itself. I get to build things that actually serve a purpose. I get to see the effort of my work turn into part of a system right in front of my eyes every day. The work is physical and always changing so I'm never really bored. Even if I'm doing something really repetitive and am working by myself in silence I am having a good time. Really my only gripe is that I have to wake up really early in the morning to get to work but that's not even that bad considering it means I don't have to deal with traffic and I get my evenings free whenever I don't have class.
I've worked in offices and tried to make a go of it but I hated it immensely. Sitting in the same chair all day looking at the same computer all day talking to the same people all day about the same exact things day in and day out. It felt like a punishment for just being alive. The work I'm doing now is so much more varied and dynamic. Even the place where I'm actually working changes! I love the variety of it and I've barely just started so there's so much more to come!
I have always felt like a person's line of work says a lot about them and even though I try not to base my own self worth on it it's really hard not to. I also have some goals for my life that are just going to take a certain level of income that I thought was so far out of my reach before. But now I can actually think about buying a house someday and traveling and just so many other things! And I'm doing work that I like! I was so miserable in college and after college... I felt really pressured to go to college because it's positioned like it's the only option and if you don't go you're just going to fail at life. I think way more people go to college than actually should and I think many people who do go go way to early in life. I really didn't know myself very well until I got past the age of 25 and even now that I'm 29 I'm still learning about what I value and what I'm good at doing and what my goals in life are.
I really felt hopeless before this job... I was working at a restaurant with a family member who helped me get the job who is younger than me. I had a degree in a subject that I realized I didn't really care about and was qualified for jobs I didn't really want to do that barely paid over minimum wage. Everyone's advice just made me feel worse because they all said I should get a master's degree like somehow spending even more time and money to further study subjects I wasn't interested in to get even harder jobs I didn't even want was a good idea. So stupid. I never want peoples' advice unless I explicitly ask for it but people just kept volunteering it. None of us really know what we're doing in life. We're taking guesses and trying our best but we can't tell the future so we're just hoping that the choices we make will lead us where we want to be. And nobody knows my life better than me so for people to tell me what I should value and what I should do when I didn't even ask their opinion is just so rude and ignorant that it really pisses me off.
You just have to do your best to get to know yourself and explore what options are out there and keep trying things. I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life career wise. And that's not a bad thing! Some of us just need time and trial and error to figure things out!
I have always kind of thought construction workers are cool. I would see them outside doing stuff and working on machines and would wonder what their day to day looked like. I would see buildings all around me being built and would marvel at how quickly they seemed to spring up and what that process actually looks like when it's broken down. I would see these things and think about them but it took me a really long time to actually think to sit down and do some research on how people even get into that type of work. Once I did that I found that there's a lot of information out there if you just look for it and that getting into the construction industry is doable no matter your age or your experience if you really want it.
Once I narrowed it down to being an electrician and got more familiar with the actual application process I would tell people about it and NO ONE WAS SUPPORTIVE. Everyone thought I was crazy and that I would just be harassed all the time for being a woman and that it was ridiculous and I should just force myself to go back to college and get some shitty office job somewhere. I remember someone I know even burst out laughing when I told them I wanted to be an electrician. Another woman! I even had family members I would talk to about it and I would even tell them in detail how and when I was going to apply and what steps I would take from there and they would just respond by saying they're so worried about me because I don't know what I'm doing and have no plans for my future. They literally disregarded everything I was telling them because they didn't want to or couldn't understand what I was explaining to them because it wasn't familiar to them.
Not knowing what you're doing career wise or in life in general is ok! Just do what you feel you need to do to figure it out. Earlier this year I was working as a waitress and was miserable! Now just months later I'm on a clear track to a career I'm really happy about! When I applied in April I really didn't think I'd hear back so quickly because so many people apply but it just goes to show you, you never know until you try! Everyone I knew was very discouraging but I went for it!
Well... one person stood out as being very supportive. In November 2016 I had met my boyfriend Jesse and when I actually met him I brought this whole thing up. He said he was a pipefitter welder in the union and that made me bring up how I was thinking of applying to be an electrician. I asked him how about his experience and what it was like for him getting into the union and if he knew anything about the electrician's union and if he had any helpful information or advice he could give me.
Two years later and not only are he and I dating but we both work in construction! We both even have the same schedule, work within 15 minutes of each other, and we have the same holidays off! THAT'S INSANE! INSANELY AMAZING! Sometimes things just work out! I couldn't have imagined my life would be the way it is today. I expected to still be on the application waiting list at this point but things just started happening quickly and now I'm moving along towards a great future!
Everybody's path to success will look different. Everyone's definition of what success even is is different! What you have control over is your motivation and the choices you make. People will always have their opinions of what you should do. Take it or leave it. People were very wrong about my abilities, what was possible, and even what they felt I should be interested in. I went for it anyways. I didn't even expect the great outcome I got. I expected way less but I still went for it because I decided I wanted it. When I stopped doing what people told me I had to do and instead looked at what I actually wanted and did the work to find out how to get there I got there. I think I'm very lucky that everything has unfolded the way it has so far for me but none of this would have happened at all had I not set things into motion.
Now when I meet people and they inevitably ask what I do for work or if I'm a student or whatever I proudly say that I'm training to be an electrician and I LOVE IT. People used to laugh at me and doubt me. Now some people even reply with "Ooooh!" or "Wow!" or "Cool!" or "Badass!" when I tell them what I'm up to. And what makes it so great is that's how I actually feel about it!
I have to take a second to thank my boyfriend Jesse as well. Since I am making much less than I used to I am more strained financially than I ever have been before (which if you know me is very alarming) but he helps me when I really need it and that has made a HUGE difference.
I've also grown up a little bit and not spending like a hoarder psychopath like I used to. It took me a really really long time and a lot of conscious effort to get over my addiction to buying stupid stuff left and right. But I'm happy. I care about myself. I can see good things developing in my life and that makes me want to take better care of myself and that includes being more mindful about my finances.
Things are good. I almost expect something really bad will happen to me to balance it out... But this isn't a movie. This is real life. And sometimes things just go well and it's good to just enjoy them.
I'm a pre-apprentice electrician. Now I want to put Pikachu all over everything because I feel so proud and it all just feels so right. I feel like I'm becoming the me I'm truly meant to be. ⚡♥⚡