1,000 Hours Old (The First Six Months)

I’ve turned 1,000! Each term in our apprenticeship is measured in on-the-job hours and accompanying formal class time. For me, this means I got a 5% raise and I’m in class one day a week for the fall term. This class day is unpaid and it’s no big deal to the employer; in fact, it’s an expected event. All electrical contractors understand their apprentices will be available four days a week rather than five when class is in session. Here’s how my class notification went:

– Me to my construction manager: “Hey, I just got my notice from the training center. I’m in class on Wednesdays starting October 3.”
– My construction manager to me: “OK. Fine.”

In hindsight, I couldn’t help but compare this to the hoops, the blessings, the eye-rollings and passive-aggressive sighs that occurred if/when I ever wanted to take a course while holding a standard office job. What a contrast to this trade: As a union electrician, I’m not only expected to learn, I’m encouraged to learn!

Even with my raise, though, I had to quickly adjust my budget for a 30-32 hour week instead of the usual 40. It’s a 20% difference, and although I was intellectually prepared, I still had some pucker and sink moments – like making $17 last until the next pay day. No wonder so many journeymen are so quick to advise us newbies to save and budget, save and budget, and save and budget! One work week is never guaranteed to be like the next. So far, my biggest swing has been: 14 straight days without a break (helllloooooo time-and-a-half and double time!) versus 16 regular hours for the week. Budget and save (and resist the splurge), indeed!

During the last six months, I have grown physically stronger, lost a pants size or two, gained self-confidence and learned some pretty cool technical skills. Once I stopped aching all the time (the first two months), I even have more energy. I’ve had SEVEN evaluations – none of which have been nearly as harsh as my first one.

Work this time of year is slow but not abysmal. Several of the journeymen in my shop tell me they’re working sporadically. I’m lucky to still be working a steady week even though it’s mostly at our shop and filling in on a site here and there.

Having a work set up like this is much more flexible than anything I’ve ever experienced before. We might not get formal vacation days, but at least our base wages make the time versus money tug-of-war much easier to manage!

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