Meredith Balmforth: An Electrical Career Fits Me


Meredith Balmforth took a few somewhat drastic turns before becoming an electrician. But once on that path, it was full speed ahead and watch out world. Today, she’s a licensed electrician, an instructor for IEC of Utah, works with IEC National on test banks and curriculum errata, a wife, and a mother. As one of the participants in The House That She Built initiative, Meredith is committed to actively promoting trades as a career option to girls. 


The Back Story 

Utah born and bred, Meredith earned a scholarship to her college of choice — Brigham Young University. With eyes bright, goals set, and a stellar high school career behind her, she headed to Provo. 

Before the year was over, so was that dream. She flunked out. Those large classes with little professor interaction did not work for Meredith. 

She headed home having lost her scholarship and tried some community college courses but had no major in mind and no passion identified. She decided to join an 18-month mission trip with her church to West Virginia. When that was over, she came home still unsure of her future path. 

Shortly thereafter, she overheard a conversation at church where one person was asking another — ‘Do you know a good electrician?’ 

“It was like a lightning bolt hit me,” Meredith says. “That was 2001 and I began looking for how to become an electrician. IEC of Utah didn’t have a school yet, so my apprenticeship classes were at the community college, which used the IEC curriculum. I knew from the beginning that this was where I belonged.” 

She successfully completed her apprenticeship in 2005 and began working in the electrical field. 

The other dream she had early on was to become a wife and mother. She and Brandon married in 2004 and today they are proud parents of three girls. 


Becoming an Instructor 

IEC of Utah opened its online school in 2008. Chapter leadership ‘remembered’ Meredith and approached her to become an instructor. 

“As an apprentice, I had gotten a reputation for being kind of a complainer — in a good way!” Meredith offers. “If I saw something in the curriculum that seemed a little off to me, it was a great opportunity for me to talk with my instructor and figure out if I was not understanding it right or if something might be wrong in the published material. Or, I’d be looking at the code book and the curriculum book and they weren’t matching. I was that squeaky wheel that couldn’t let the details alone!” 

Today, as an instructor for second year apprentices, how does Meredith react to the complainers in her classes? 

“I rejoice in them!” she says. “I’m excited that they’re telling me the problems they see and maybe they’re ready to be angry and I can offer that deescalating factor into the situation. While fixing problems can be exhausting, I remind myself that doing so means that next year the curriculum is going to be better and prettier and cleaner.” 

Meredith explains it also shows her that the students feel comfortable talking with her and believe she wants to help them be better electricians. From confusion about lessons to situations they’re facing on the jobsite to nifty things they come across about the electrical industry, Meredith is honored they choose to share them with her. 

“Just recently, a former student purchased a copy of the original code book from 1897 and he sent me pictures from it,” she says. “I haven’t taught this student for more than five years but he knew I’d love seeing those and it was so delightful to receive them.” 

Meredith says second year classes are packed with code, and theory, and math — and it’s hard. 

“Many of our students by nature are hands-on visual learners and they got into this trade because those are their strengths,” Meredith says. “We have some advanced algebra, some trigonometry, and they have to wrap their minds around square roots and lots of material they haven’t seen for a while. There’s the theory too — magnetism and electron theory, how invisible forces make things move, and where does electricity come from, and what about all of these values? It’s tricky.” 

Meredith, like many IEC instructors, constantly strives to meet students where they’re at and find the best possible ways to reach them. She values the wealth of video resources available to today’s learners that weren’t yet common when she was an apprentice. She acknowledges that students come to her classes after a full day of work and live full lives with families and hobbies and more. 

“Their brains just need to know what they have to hold on to in this moment, as well as what to make notes about for test preparation,” she notes. “A technique that I like to use is to first present an overview — including the why — and then dive into the details. I’m constantly looking for the newest videos, the newest explanations, real-life examples of people in an actual building scenario explaining the theoretical concepts in action.” 

While IEC of Utah had its roots with fully online classes, students now have the option of in-person or online. Utah is a large state and most of IEC of Utah’s students opt to come to class remotely from home, and then come in person for lab work. 


National Impact 

That ‘complainer’ piece of Meredith from her apprenticeship? It is the same piece that propelled her to become a valued contributor at IEC National as ‘keeper and cleaner’ of the test banks — those questions available to IEC instructors using the IEC curriculum and CMS (content management system). 

“I love this little niche for me; it fits the piece of me that doesn’t like to see errors and the part of me that’s an electrician through and through,” Meredith says. “I get to bring those two together in a really special place and I can do it while being a mom.”  

Meredith explains there is a process in place for chapter training directors, instructors, and executive directors to submit errata for evaluation by the Errata Review Group. It’s a rolling process and her job to keep submissions thorough and ready for review. All errata approved before March 15 each year is included in the following year’s curriculum. 

“IEC’s curriculum is the best, but things are always changing and we need to stay on top of it,” she adds. “We need to always have a curriculum that the students and instructors can have confidence in and not have errors cause any loss in that confidence. The needs of contractors across the country change and the electrical code changes, and we need to keep up with that.” 


Using Her Voice 

The final piece to Meredith’s story is her total commitment to ensuring that all girls and young women know that being in the trades is a great career option — not just as a backup if college doesn’t work out as expected, but as a number one choice for their path. 

“When I go to a career day or to speak at a school, I put on a skirt, get my hair done, put on my tool belt, pack my bender and my drill and my fish tape to make a visual statement in the maybe 20 minutes they give me,” Meredith explains. “It’s a good thing to report that the shock factor I originally was going for is not really there. We live in an era where electricians are a thing and women can be in the trades. There is no shock factor.” 

Meredith says her goals are twofold — make the students know we need them in the trades and that the trades are a great place to earn a living. She passes around her tools and encourages questions. 

“I share that being an electrician is a fantastic lifestyle and a career that feeds all you want to do with life — make a great living, have a home and family and hobbies and vacations,” Meredith says. “The conversations I have at the high school level are the ones that give me the most hope and I want to make the biggest impact because they’re the closest to jumping off into the world. They ask about who to contact, wages, what classes they should be taking for example. I share the apprenticeship model with them. Though it may look a bit different from state to state, the premise is the same. You can start day one knowing nothing and having no tools and you begin learning immediately, have a job, get paid, and have zero school debt. That’s a message they can latch on to.” 

Meredith is proud to have been a participant in the all-women build behind the now popular children’s book, The House That She Built. 

“I was brought in near the end of the project and was able to do most of the finish work — panels, plugs, and lights,” Meredith says. “I was able to see it all getting wrapped up at the end. It was a very special experience. The unique special part was I’ve never been on a job site that was only women. In fact, I’ve never been on a job site that had more than one woman.” 

Spearheaded by the Utah Chapter of the National Association of Home Builders Professional Women in Building, a crew of more than 100 women professionals, skilled tradeswomen, and women-owned companies built a 3,200-square foot custom-built home in Saratoga Springs, UT. The house was completed and sold in 2021 and much of the money from the sale went to advancing efforts to interest more women to join the construction field. 

The mission of The House That She Built is to support workforce development initiatives in the construction industry by generating awareness of the skilled trades to the largest underrepresented community.