The 2020 IEC Apprentice Essay Contest encouraged apprentices in their final year with an IEC Apprentice Training Program to share their thoughts on how becoming an electrician has changed or influenced their life,
and where they hope their career path will take them in the future.
Each of the winning essays presents a thoughtful and heartfelt account of the journey these five young men have taken to get to where they are today in their personal and professional lives.
All five of the 2020 winners are from the IEC Central Ohio chapter. Congratulations to all of you! IEC
looks forward to seeing how you will make your mark on the world as professional electricians!
How has becoming an electrician changed or influenced your life and where do you see this career path taking you?
GRAND PRIZE WINNER
Evan Hlava, IEC Central Ohio
I vividly remember tossing malleable dough skyward, catching it aggressively and assembling pizza after pizza for 60 hours a week. I felt stuck in a rut. A dead-end job making food for unthankful customers on the west side of Columbus. Horror stories of college debt and useless degrees made me believe a man like me was better off in the food business. I did my job to the fullest with no sense of reward and only a minimal experience of success. I voiced my anger and discontent to a friend when we met up for drinks one night by chance. He listened intently, smiled, and asked if I’d be interested in being an electrician. I pondered briefly thinking back to my youth.
My father lights up when around strangers and tells them of the time I disassembled an alarm clock at the age of five. I was bored, so he handed me a screwdriver and a broken clock. I fell silent for hours tearing it apart with my clumsy hands and reassembling it. To his amazement and confusion, it worked again. Good luck or a magic touch? Doesn’t matter. He knew then that I was technically inclined and was from then on always willing to supply me with old devices to break into. Having retrieved this memory, I looked up at my friend and declared “absolutely.” The following day, I put in my two weeks and lined up a job with his employer.
The first day on a construction site, I felt oddly at home. Grinders, drills, the deafening zip of wires through metal studs. The cacophony of construction immediately filled me with a sense of purpose and exposed an endless world of learning. In the five years following I have gained confidence, information, and drive that has fueled my journey into the pursuit of Journeyman status. I am far from the end. Had I never accepted Nathan’s proposition to upheave myself from that stuck mindset, I imagine I would still be assembling food for the unthankful.
Now, whether overworked or tired I still go home at the end of the day with lessons learned, knowledge gained, and milestones crossed. The electrical trade and apprenticeship school together have built me to be a better man both in my own eyes and those of onlookers. I wholly attribute this business to my success and confidence knowing that there is no end if I continue to push myself and pursue the knowledge that the world has to offer in all avenues.
Luke Vanderhoff, IEC Central Ohio
Contractor: Settle Muter Electric
Being an electrician isn’t in my family. I didn’t come from a long line of contractors or tradesman. I can see how, throughout my life, I have been heading in this direction. From an early age I have always been a hands on, visual learner and have always enjoyed being involved in projects and getting in the middle of the action.
It all started with the retired electrician in my dad’s church congregation, who would teach me things as he would work around the church and in other jobs that he would let me tag along to “help” but he was actually teaching. As I look back, I see others I would get connected with, each one teaching me other lessons about construction and ultimately, life. I can see it leading me to the point where, with no direction or passion for any other career I came across the electrical trade school and a business owner, seeing a spark of potential in me, gave me a chance.
Now, over five years later, I prepare to graduate as a journeyman electrician. This trade is something I can be proud of and take all over the country and even the world. I can stand tall and say, I am an electrician. There are endless possibilities to this trade and the life lessons it has to offer. Through further education I can choose what to add to my skills and grow as much as the trade allows. I will always be able to say, I am an electrician.
There is something so fulfilling and exciting about doing a job with excellence. Being a true tradesman. The moment you tighten the last strap on the conduit you bent and you stand back, looking at how everything lines up plumb and level, because it matters, and you want to work with excellence. Or the moment you twist that last wire nut on the lighting circuit you have worked on all day and know you have done a good job. You turn them on and the job site jumps to life, drowning out the dingy temporary site lights. These are the moments you live for. Through the tough jobs and the hard days, you can stand back and say, I did that and it looks good. Because I am an electrician and I work with excellence.
I may not come from a family of tradesman, however, I am excited to see what the future holds. As I pass by buildings I have helped create, their tenants oblivious to my handiwork, and say, “I wired that” the questions come to my mind, “Who will I influence? Who I will impact?” I want to work with pride now, so someone else, maybe my son or my grandson, can one day say, I am an electrician!
Daniel Cleary, IEC Central Ohio
My involvement in the trade started when I attended a vocational high school and took electrical training. I chose this career path because I knew I wanted to work with my hands. Becoming an electrician was the most lucrative way I saw to do that. This first step opened a world of opportunity for me.
Before even completing my senior year, I had spent eight months working full time with electrical contractors on job placement. Transferring from childhood to primary education into my working adult life was, instead of distressing, simple. With my newfound financial stability, I bought a house and moved out at 18. I continued on with this electrical contractor and in short order entered the IEC apprenticeship, tested out of my first year of apprenticeship, built my skills under the supervision of journeymen, and started working on my own within our company, running an industrial service truck.
I am now 20 years old, financially stable, secure in my employment, enjoying meaningful work and the
respect of my elders in the field. All this was accomplished with out a penny of debt from education costs.
I do not know how I could have given myself a finer start to life than by becoming an electrician. I am looking forward to many years of enjoyable work and advancement within the field. In conclusion, I’d like to say that, contrary to popular belief, opportunity in this trade and many others like it, is alive and well.
Seth Rager, IEC Central Ohio
Contractor: Buckingham Electric
My story started not so long ago, earlier than most in my field, but still just a few short years ago. It is 2016, I’m at the brink of adulthood just trying to figure out life. All my friends are running off to college to play sports and chase their dreams. I found myself stuck in the middle, I could have gone and played football, but I found myself drowning in doubt. Doubt in my skills, my desire to further my education, and my ability to figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life. After all, once the field lights turn off for good, I’d be in the same boat I was in at that moment. I knew I wanted to find a skill, and not be stuck behind a desk. I was enrolled in a class that allowed me to leave school early to work. By the end of the year I would need 1000 hours of paid work to pass the class. I had 500 hours and was running out of time. I was job searching and asking around for leads. I was short on options and running out of time. I prayed about it and one day I received my answer and what would turn into my saving grace.
My now boss came up to me at church and asked what my future plans were and was wondering if I ever thought about the electrical field. Needing hours fast and being able to work asap sparked my interest. Joining this field was such a daunting task. I was standing on the cliff overlooking my future, so much weighed on this one pinnacle decision in my life, but one act of faith and one small step has opened doors I didn’t even know existed, so I dove in head first. My first few months were fast paced, mounds of knowledge, and such a short time to learn it all. The job was a massive new commercial training center. To me it was such a daunting task, but it was here that laid the groundwork that I would use to build my career on. I learned how to do every aspect of my job; we did everything a new building needed from start to finish. I was quickly making connections with different trades, absorbing as much knowledge as I could, and any spare time was spent picking my foreman’s brain.
It did not matter who or what it was, if it involved construction I wanted to know. I did not realize it then but looking back at four years ago I had no clue I would be here. The huge cliff I was on seems like a small step in comparison. So my reason why? Back then I would have said it was out of desperation, and today I would tell you it was the best thing I could have done, it was the foundation I have set my adult life on, the skills, the knowledge, and now the shear challenge of the trade is why I became a journeyman.
Chris Hendershot, IEC Central Ohio
As a young boy I wanted to be a rockstar. Making and sharing my music with the world. The older I got the more I realized those were childish dreams and I needed to find something else that I was just as passionate about. Something that held my attention and challenged my brain to grow every day. My first real job was working at a chicken farm feed mill. I worked more hours than I thought humanly possible but everyday was something new and challenging, so I never got bored. However, with a family of my own this job left very little time for them and I felt I needed more balance. So, on the search I went again to find not only the challenge but the balance too. I landed a job at a rock quarry running heavy equipment. The money was good, and the hours were better but the monotony of the same task in the exact same way day in and day out was draining the life from me.
On a break one day I was chatting with and older gentleman who had worked there most of his life when he told me about the bubble gum effect. When you get a new job it is exciting and you couldn’t be happier kind of like when you put a fresh piece of gum in your mouth. Over time the flavors and the sugars are all chewed out and you want a new piece. He told me the key was to always find new ways to “add sugar” back to your bubble gum. I really took that to heart and started looking around.
My dad and two brothers were electricians and they seemed plenty happy, so I took a course in electrical theory and decided to give it the old college try. An electrical company took a chance on my not having much electrical experience but seeing I had drive. I learn new things daily on the job sites and more than I ever thought I could round out my fourth year of school at IEC. Everyday, I am challenged and pushed to expand my way of thinking for the better! Becoming an electrician and working my way into a journeyman position has been the best way to stop the bubble gum effect in my life!