The stage is set! A total of 28 competitors face off during SPARK in Louisville – each with the desire to be named 2022 Apprentice of the Year. They earned the chance to compete in Louisville after winning the top spot in their individual chapters. Congratulations and good luck to each of you! See the full list of competitors in the September/October issue beginning on page 68. Read on for short pieces on three of the competitors.
My Electric Career is Just Right for Me
It was a simple suggestion from his step-dad – ‘why don’t you try being an electrician or a plumber’ that led Franklin Rivas Argueta to his life’s work.
“I was getting ready to get out of high school, and I didn’t really know what to do next,” Franklin says. “I was working in a fast-food restaurant and I could have easily just stayed there and become a manager, as they saw I had potential.”
Instead, he decided to look into his step-dad’s suggestion, found electrical apprenticeship programs, and loved the idea of going to school and working at the same time. An initial approach where Franklin tried to get into the union proved to be cumbersome, so Franklin continued his research which led to the IEC Apprenticeship Program. He found this to be a much clearer path, so he completed his paperwork, took a test, approached companies that IEC alerted him were hiring in his area, and landed a position with FB Harding in Frederick, MD, for his four years of training.
“At my company as a new apprentice, they put you in the warehouse for a period of time so you get an idea of how electrical work is,” Franklin remembers. “I saw shelves and shelves just full of materials. In my head I’m thinking how am I going to learn every single thing about all this material? I started working, got into the field, and three years later I realized I now knew every material just by paying attention. You learn every day. Set your mind to it, and it starts coming to you.”
Fast forward four years. Franklin graduated, received his Washington, DC journeyman’s license, and finds himself in the running for the 2022 IEC National Apprentice of the Year. He looks back on his time as an apprentice with appreciation and gratitude.
“In my second year, the foremen that I worked with gave a positive review about me and I realized how much I had learned,” Franklin says. “I would go to these new jobs and they’d hand me the prints and say look, we want to start you out. Go ahead, we’ll give you four people to work with you. There were people in my group with more experience but the company saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to lead.”
One of these projects involved doing lights and lighting controls on a new system. After he completed his work on that job, the foreman he worked with started requesting him for future jobs.
“We were working with a new lighting system, and it was really complicated,” Franklin explains. “We were figuring it out together, and I really learned a lot from our foreman and from the manufacturer. It was an important year for me. I gathered a lot of information and saw that I could do this and saw that I could lead – even people with more overall experience than me. How do you learn if you don’t get put on the spot and gain experience and learn troubleshooting? It was really positive. We had schedules to meet, so we put the hours in and we did it.”
I’ve Landed Where I Need to Be
Unlike most of the other competitors in the 2022 IEC Apprentice of the Year competition, Matthew Dows left a previous career as a physician assistant to become an electrician.
“I was working 60 to 80 hours a week, not having time for anything else, and became burnt out,” Matthew shares. “I had worked construction as a general laborer in high school and through some of the summers while in college. I did some soul searching and thought about going back to doing something with my hands. At first I thought about computers, but don’t really like sitting at a desk all day. After some thought and knowing that I like to take things apart and put them back together, I decided to enter the electrical apprentice program and got picked up by SECCO.”
Entering his first year of apprenticeship off the traditional schedule, he began doing his course work online and really didn’t get a break until the end of second year. Year three and four were to be a return to the traditional classroom setting, but COVID changed that and he continued online through all four years. He had the advantage of already understanding the discipline required for online learning. While this method didn’t provide camaraderie with fellow apprentices, he made up for that daily on the job.
“While this way was maybe a bit harder as I didn’t have an instructor right there, I did enjoy it,” he explains. “I was able to proceed at my pace, moving past the material I picked up quickly for example. Also, I didn’t have to work all day and then do classes right after that. Once you are on a work schedule getting up at 5:00 a.m. every day, you don’t really sleep in on weekends. Therefore, I’d get up and do my classwork before the family woke up!”
Matthew graduated spring 2022 and currently is working with ASCOM Inc., in Dover, PA. He was valedictorian of his apprenticeship graduating class and recipient of the 2022 Herm Sebastian Award. Matthew says Herm Sebastian started the IEC Central Pennsylvania chapter and also was co-founder of SECCO. Also, Matthew is now an instructor for IEC Pennsylvania, helping those first years along.
“I moved from the field to inside where I’m trying to learn the whole industry,” he says. “I think I’m really good at the hands-on and project management parts and now want to learn the money side of the business in hopes of owning my own company someday. I’m currently working on a new estimating software program and taking classes with the company. I have a supportive group of colleagues helping me out.”
But first, the 2022 AOY competition.
Take Advantage of Your Opportunities
Sarah Kincheloe was looking for opportunity when she landed on her electrician career choice. She had been working retail in high school and knew that there was more for her future.
“I was a retail worker, and I realized that wasn’t really a career for me,” Sarah states. “It was a job, but it wasn’t a career. I wanted something with more security, where I could make a good living; where I could learn new skills. I wanted a field trade – and I didn’t want to be a plumber! The tech center near my house at the time had an electrical program. I went there and started that program, got hired on at an electrical company, and that’s when I went through IEC Apprenticeship Program. I was looking for a career and thought I could spend a bit of money to get some tools, or I could spend a whole lot of money and go to college. I chose the trade.”
A recent graduate of the four-year IEC program and now a licensed journeyman, Sarah finds herself competing for the 2022 IEC Apprentice of the Year in Louisville. While not normally the type of thing she seeks, she opted for the opportunity when the OKC-IEC offered it.
“I’m not one of those people with overzealous confidence and all that, but I believed it was an opportunity I should not let pass me by,” she explains. “We went in one Saturday for the chapter wire-off, and I qualified to go to the National competition. I want to do my best, and I want to enjoy the camaraderie while networking with my fellow recent grads and other competitors. I’m going in there to take the opportunity to show what I’ve learned. If I win, that’s great. If I don’t, that’s great too. With that mindset you’re not going to be disappointed.”
During the chapter wire-off, she had to demonstrate excellence in conduit bending, motor controls, line diagrams, as well as take a written test. Her scores on all parts earned her the trip to Louisville.
“You’re there to show what you know and compare your skills with those from other parts of the country. I’m really excited about networking with my fellow competitors,” Sarah offers.