How did you get into your trade?
In high school, I didn’t even know the trades existed. Maybe that was my own lack of awareness and not asking the right questions, or maybe it was an industry that was glossed over as a career opportunity. Either way, my awareness of the trades came from a boyfriend I met in college my freshman year. His dad owned and operated a plumbing business, he had bought property and built houses, plumbed them, and then put them on the market in addition to working full time for his contractors.
I worked with my boyfriend and his dad on and off, cleaning up jobsites, drilling holes, learning about plumbing and tools. I fell in love with the camaraderie I saw amongst the tradespeople, the satisfaction in building and creating something, the variety between seasons and inside and outside work, working with my hands and taking a step back and SEEING the work we did.
When I got serious about making a career out of it, I was encouraged to pursue the electrical trade because it was “easier.” I can tell you, that is definitely not the case! Each trade has its challenges. Regardless, easier or not, I talked to an electrical contractor, and he gave me an opportunity to work in the electrical trade. I was able to work as an apprentice using some of his old hand tools, giving me a more than fair opportunity to fall in love with the work. Then it was personally investing in my own tools, and enrolling in school to start working towards my journeyman license. I have never looked back with any thread of regret.
What was your trade education experience like? What did you like? What did you find frustrating?
The state I worked in required 2000 hours of on-the-job training. During the school year (fall to spring), we had to be enrolled in classes that were either 4 hours a week, or 8 hours every other Saturday.
I was fortunate to have an employer at the time who handled the reporting of my hours and made that documentation process easy for me. This could have been a frustrating step if I had to do it without their help and support.
My employer at the time also provided financial support for the apprentice program, I don’t recall the arrangement exactly, but they paid for two out of my four years (Which ranged from $900-$1500 a year probably).
I do well in classroom settings, the class gave me an opportunity to learn code concepts and theory that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Knowing how and where to find the answers is very important. I also was able to talk with other apprentices that were going through the program and hear about their challenges, get a different perspective and find out about work that I hadn’t done. I liked that I received textbooks and resources that I still use to this day! I liked working full time, being able to bring in a paycheck, while attending the required classes.
Staying awake was frustrating at times, depending on the workload and the instructor. Often classroom studies and progress didn’t match what you were learning in the field, so there was a disconnect at times.
What are some things that surprised you about entering the residential home services field?
- What electricians thought was ok, and what they got away with.
- The dangerous and unsafe ways people added to or changed their systems.
- Overall misunderstanding of how electricity works or how things operate.
- The vast difference between customers and the value they put on safety (nervous about electricity or not).
- I was impressed by what we could do. What can be added, changed, fished-in and modified to an existing system.
What is your favorite technical task to perform? Why?
No task has been more rewarding for me than adding lighting to a customer’s finished home and doing it with no wall repair needed. It is something that customers see and feel, as it changes their lives and the way their room, kitchen, art, yard, and workspace looks. The variety is endless, not only in the fixture and lighting types but in how they are controlled. It is a tangible success and seeing the customers get excited about the work you do, there is nothing like it. Any task that improves someone else’s life in whatever way they can get excited about, is my favorite task.
What was your most memorable service call?
Mr. and Mrs. Paige. I was 3-4 months pregnant with my oldest child and the job was to address some lighting in the kitchen. During the service call we talked about other needs, wants, plans and safety concerns. I learned this couple had been parental figures for over 20 kids, as they raised their own children, then continued to give foreign exchange students a place to call home year after year. What impressed me more than the number of kids, was the connection they seemed to have with them, and the strong relationships they maintained with others. I ended up leaving their home with a dispatch fee, a variety of options, ranging from addressing the kitchen lights, a kitchen remodel, to a service relocation (meter had been enclosed in a porch and service drop was too close to the recently paved driveway), panel change and full re-wire.
I felt good about the visit but felt terrible about the 2.5-3 hours I spent there working on quotes and options with nothing to show for it. I committed to following up. When I did, I don’t think it was the first time, as they decided to get other contractors to look at the larger scope of work I had talked to them about. It was on the second time we talked that Mr. Paige told me this:
“We want you to do our work, even though your quote to do the job was substantially higher than all the others, and are ready to start with the first stage (the service relocate and panel). We have supported our own girls through whatever career paths they chose, and though I am relatively old-fashioned, I was impressed by you. I want to see what you can do for us.
During the time they had been getting other prices, and the time doing the work, Mrs. Paige made a quilt for me and my unborn baby. It has been used often for all three of my children and I still have it today.
The rewire portion of their project came months later. I had the privilege of being their dispatcher, having a say in which electrician took care of them and staying in touch with them throughout the process. I am not sure the impact I left on them, what is most memorable about this service call is the lasting impact they had on me. For them, I am eternally grateful for their belief and their trust in me and my ability.
What has been your most favorite lesson you’ve built for NexTech Academy?
The kitchen layout, customer service scenario in the Home’s Basic Needs lesson. It gave me the freedom of showing two different sides of customer service through questions, and using a relatable scenario to do it!
Check out Corinne’s favorite lesson—a sneak peek into NexTech 2.0!