Sarah Kincheloe is a 2022 IEC Apprenticeship Program graduate through IEC-OKC and currently works at Delco, Oklahoma City, OK. Her four-year apprenticeship ended with a well-earned honor – Sarah was selected to represent IEC-OKC at the 2022 IEC Apprentice of the Year competition to be held during SPARK: Power Tomorrow, October 5-8, Louisville, KY.
What brought her to this point?
“Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect; I had never met anyone who was an electrician. I thought I might go in and people would be throwing wrenches at me and stuff,” she jokes. “I think there are some misconceptions about people who work in skilled trades, blue collar workers. The most pleasant surprise is that the guys I work with are great! They are as eager to learn as I am; they want to get the job done and done well. Obviously when you like the people you work with, it makes the job a lot more enjoyable.”
Sarah had been working retail, but knew she wanted a career after high school and not just a job. Her research led her to the IEC Apprenticeship Program and to incredible satisfaction with her choice.
“When I was young, my Oma used to tell us kids ‘if you learn a skill, no one can take it away from you,’ and while I didn’t realize it at the time, her encouragement had a bigger impact on me than I thought,” Sarah recalls. “You learn how to do something, to make something, and no one can ever take that from you.”
Through the Four Years
“Maybe in year one, you have to do the jobs that other people don’t really want to do. That’s a part of it; you learn that way,” says Sarah. “Perhaps it’s the grunt work; you’re handing people tools and materials. I found that many people who go into the apprenticeship program just need to get past that first year, learning to depend on others to help you; to teach you. You don’t really know very much yet. When you get out in the field, that’s where you really learn and you cut your teeth.”
Channeling her Oma’s wisdom, Sarah says as you work your way up through your apprenticeship, you get more experience and you learn how to do different things. Then people will start trusting you to do more interesting tasks. Enjoy that you get to work with a lot of different people so that you can show them you know how to get things done.
“They learn that they can trust you, that you know what you’re doing, and that they don’t have to monitor you all the time,” she shares. “Those journeymen or more experienced apprentices working side-byside with you are not just being sure you don’t mess anything up! They are teaching you how to do everything correctly. The confidence of the people around you grows as they work with you more and more. They learn that you can handle this.”
Post-graduation, Sarah earned her journeyman’s license and looks forward to what her future holds. She acknowledges that many routes are available to her moving forward. For now, she is 100 percent focused on becoming a better journeyman – learning more, experiencing more, improving her skills, and continuing to win the support of those around her. She also is committed to better endurance regarding the biggest challenge she faced during her four-year apprenticeship – Mother Nature!
“Admittedly, learning to work in extreme weather conditions was more than I expected,” she says. “I knew the work would by physical, but didn’t totally appreciate the challenge of working outdoors in extreme heat, hot sun, terrible winds, or the cold and ice. Sometimes the work that needs to be done right now on a project manages to occur during one of those extreme weather times!”
Her Oma would be proud that this has not deterred her from moving forward in her trade. Sarah is appreciative of her colleagues, her supportive work place, and her opportunities to chart her future.
“Perhaps the most encouraging thing that I’ve taken away from my four years is that if you come in with a good attitude, you show up on time, and you’re there to work, people will give you opportunities. They will be supportive as you learn new things as they want you to succeed. The more you know, the better for them! You become an asset.”
She now understands the feeling those with more experience explained to her early on about how gratifying it is to go into a building that you’ve worked on and see it in operation.
“There is a sense of pride when you return,” she says. “This building is something that’s going to last and I feel it makes an impact in the world. If you want something to work, you have to have electricity!”