Upon completion of high school I decided to serve my country by joining the United States Navy. I was trained to be a Hospital Corpsman, and served 10 years before deciding to separate from the military. During this time I learned many valuable leadership and interpersonal skills that would be an asset, no matter what career path I chose. Toward the end of my obligated service, I attended the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class that helps separating service members move into civilian employment and preparedness. During this class, I found out about Helmets to Hard Hats, a program that aids veterans in the transition from the military into a career within the building trades. As soon as I could, I went onto the Helmets to Hardhats website and became a member.
Before separating from the service, I began the application process to become an apprentice within the IBEW’s Inside Wireman Program. I was accepted and started my training in March of 2008. This was a whole new world and learning curve that would present challenges requiring a tremendous amount of commitment. I was no stranger to this sort of challenge. Being a former service member, we become committed to nothing short of excellence.
The first three years of the curriculum within this program is the core part. We attended school one day every other week for eight hours, year-round. Apprentices are required to take a test every time we attend class. During the two weeks between classes, I spent about 15–20 hours studying and completing assignments. After completion of the three core years, we attend night school in which we choose a journeyman level course every 14 weeks to complete the remaining two years of the program.
In conjunction with the classroom education, apprentices work for a variety of contractors throughout our time in the program. We transfer every 14 months to give us a wide variety of experiences within the industry.
I am now working for an independent testing company that does comprehensive low and medium voltage electrical equipment services including NETA acceptance and maintenance testing, planned and emergency field services, engineering studies, retrofitting and refurbishing electrical equipment. I am assigned to NASA Goddard in Greenbelt MD where we maintain high voltage transformers. We are doing a variety of tests such as winding resistance, transformer turns ratio (TTR), and oil maintenance and sampling.
There are many challenges in this industry. Unemployment is definitely one of them and during this recession the construction industry took a pretty heavy hit. Here in the Nation’s Capital, we have about 10% of our A-Journeymen out of work, which is pretty close to the national average.
However with the training and experiences of the union craftsman from programs such as this one, I have tremendous optimism for our future as organized labor. While we are not the cheapest guys in town, we pride ourselves on our quality and getting the job done right the first time.
I am continuing to educate myself in preparation for the transition from apprentice to journeyman. In parallel with my apprenticeship training, I am also pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the National Labor College. I am also member of a couple of groups in the Washington DC area that educate young people on the importance of unions and the need for the current generation’s involvement.