This content is sponsored by IBEW Local 26.
As the director and assistant director of apprenticeship at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26 will tell you, there is no ideal apprenticeship candidate, only one who is willing to learn. Each applicate comes to the program with their own unique perspective and the journey for each one is equally unique. What do they all have in common? For a variety of reasons be it the pay, benefits, consistent schedule or the opportunity to learn and get paid while in school, the apprenticeship provides the chance at a fulfilling career with limitless potential.
Stephanie Lashley is no exception, she came across the program at a time in her life when things felt a bit stagnant and uncertain. It was then that a friend back home recommended she look into becoming an electrician just as he had done.
“I was in an admin job, I wasn’t really making that much money, it felt very dead-end and he (my friend) recommended I become an electrician.”
With no prior knowledge about the career field, she applied for the Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee program at IBEW Local 26 and was accepted. Now in her second year, Lashley says that the training started with the basics, learning about materials, what goes into the construction, pipe bending and the math that’s often involved in electrical work.
“My trigonometry (all those years ago) came in handy!” Lashley laughs. “There’s a lot to learn when you’re starting off green but the best thing to do is just have a good attitude,” she says.
Lashley admits, her friend had prepared her for what to expect in the field i.e. lots of construction sites, commercial buildings, a ton of hard work.
Something she didn’t expect? The comradery.
“I was surprised by how the people made me feel, I was very pleasantly surprised. They did not make me feel like I was under qualified or imposter syndrome, like why are you here kind of thing. They were very welcoming and they’ve taught me a lot so far,” she says.
For James Moss, the experience has been similar but the journey to get there? Different.
Starting out his education and career across the bridge at Salisbury University, Moss graduated college and was a reserve Marine working full time as a non-union electrician when a friend of his mentioned the benefits of an apprenticeship program at IBEW Local 26. The competitive side of Moss didn’t want to miss out on what was inevitably a strategic career move, with his ultimate goal being retirement. He shared this longterm goal with WTOP during a recent interview.
“(My longterm goal is) Get to retirement, learn as much as I can and be as helpful as I can along the way,” said Moss.
What surprised him the most about the program was how well the 40-hour workweek and the apprenticeship/schooling portion are integrated together allowing each participant to make a living wage while in school. This means each apprentice gets the learning and on-the-job experience they need all without accruing any debt unlike many degree programs.
Moss wasn’t sure what to expect but the program has exceeded his expectations. The amount of things he is learning, the experience he’s getting and the benefits that come with the program all make for a fulfilling career and unlimited potential.
“I can’t think of any other thing that you can do without needing a college degree to make this amount of money and still be able to have the work/life balance, so get in!” said Moss.
Moss admits, you do have to choose it for the right reasons, waking up early, working a full 8 hours may not be appealing for everyone but having the time after work to do the things you want to do makes it all worth it. Spending time with family, friends or out doing hobbies during the week is just one of many benefits for apprentices’. While his journey to get here wasn’t a straight line, and Moss has no regrets about how he’s done it, although he does often think about how things might have been different had he gone straight into the program before college and recommends anyone considering the program to start as soon as they can.
Fourth year apprentice Shane Weinberg came to the program having already begun his career as an electrician but not feeling like there was much room for advancement where he was. Having heard about the apprenticeship program from a friend, it felt like the perfect opportunity to progress and move forward. Weinberg applied, was accepted and began working his way up. As a fourth year, he says he’s learning motor controls which really challenge him as well as more advanced code like special occupancies and special conditions. As someone who already had almost two decades of knowledge, Weinberg says that the skills he’s learned within the program will continue helping him advance his career.
“I feel like I’ll just have better knowledge of a lot of different aspects of the electrical field,” said Weinberg.
His favorite topic has become Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC) theory because he loves that you can take a circuit with unknown values, break it down to its simplest form, rebuild it and find all those values. Learning more about health and safety has also become extremely valuable for Weinberg.
“Where I was before, non-union, residential, they kind of put safety on the back burner and I feel like that was one thing I really enjoyed was the safety aspect,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg’s day usually starts around 3:30am, he gets up, gets ready and gets to the job by 6am. His day usually ends around 2pm giving him plenty of time to spend with his kids, versus getting home later in the evening and rushing through dinner, bed time and getting ready for the next day. There’s plenty of other benefits too like the financial ones.
“A sense of security, where I was before it was almost as though I was going more and more into debt each day and when I joined the program that all changed. I make a nice, liveable wage now and they do pay me to go to school which is an excellent perk!” said Weinberg.
He also mentions the healthcare benefits that each member of his family currently uses. In his non-union work, the more family members he had on the plan, the more it cost him per paycheck, and thus, the more wages he lost and debt he accrued. But with the IBEW Local 26 program that all changed and now health coverage isn’t something he worries about anymore.
“I feel like (this program) gives me the security of knowing that my future is being taken care of, I’m working towards my retirement,” said Weinberg.
Looking forward to retirement, being able to save, not accruing debt or worrying about the future, these are just a few of the benefits that offer peace of mind and a fulfilling career for the apprentice’s at IBEW Local 26.
And each apprentices’ advice for anyone considering an alternate career path? A resounding “Apply for your local!”