I Love These Guys

I’ve been preoccupied with budgeting and gobbling up as much hands-on work as possible the last several months. The most recent journeymen I’ve worked with have spoiled me because:

– They have great personalities and we have an easy rapport. I feel comfortable asking questions and we can joke around. Trust is inherent.

– They’ve helped me understand how our one little project ties in to the overall goal. We’ve been quick to confirm that we’re working from the same perspective.

– They have double-checked my logic and my measurements and turned me loose to fabricate and install our electrical components. We can have discussions about anything that needs to be re-done or things that might have been done better. I’m developing a feel and a fluidity with my tools: yet it’s not always perfect (yet). At least we can laugh about my moments of awkwardness. I’m definitely getting more efficient. Read the rest of this entry »


That’s MAN’S Work!

He said it. He said it this morning and my crew immediately went quiet and looked at me with mouths and eyes wide open. “It’s man’s work that we are doing.” We might as well have ripped a vinyl record out from under its needle. In a split second, I had to decide how (or whether) to respond to my foreman’s comment. Read the rest of this entry »


16 Months Old: Advice I’d Give Myself Last Year (or any New Apprentice)

Last year feels like so long ago. I’m now a third term apprentice. Each term is about six months long and I have seven more terms to complete before I sit for my journeywoman/electrical license exam. Here’s the advice I wish I could have given myself about a year ago:

Relax
The pre-apprenticehip program and the union’s basic skills preparation were wrong. Read the rest of this entry »


The Stand Down

The intense 10-hour days are wearing me down. I’m constantly exhausted: by the time I slog through the afternoon traffic (about 60 to 90 minutes to cover 21 miles), I have only a couple hours to myself before collapsing into bed. Time is the scarce commodity right now and I am greedy for more me time!

Today, we were sent home from the job site at 1:30pm. Since we start our days at 6:00am, it was only an eight hour day. Whooo-hoooo! An afternoon all to myself! I could barely contain my glee. Yet there was a dismal group vibe in the air. Over 300 of us were being walked off the site due to an accumulation of incidents. We were in “stand down” mode: a punishment from the general contractor who was basically saying to us, “No more work (or money) for you!” Politics and intensified stress have wormed into the scene: schedules and completion dates are tight. The drive to get it done is coming directly into conflict with safe practices. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Hook

This is the first week I’ve been “on the hook” and I don’t like it one bit. Work has slowed down to the point of my construction manager telling me, “We have no work for you, but we’ll call you as soon as something comes up.” Basically, I am receiving an unannounced furlough of indeterminate length or, through different lenses: unpaid vacation days. I like the sound of the latter much better. This is known as “staying on the hook” or “being on the hook”. Even though it would be easier and more comfortable to go with the flow and marry myself to this shop, I’m shaking myself outside my comfort zone and begging the apprentice training center to rotate me to a different contractor. Besides, I was never good at sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring! Read the rest of this entry »


Gruff Love

Recently, I spent about two weeks working with the same journeyman. He looked like an overweight and scruffy version of Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds. (ok, really – he just sported the 70’s mustache and had a full head of brown hair) He loved his cigarettes, couldn’t drink coffee – opted for hot cocoa instead – and when he was in a joking mood, would hold his pot belly and say, “Yup, this has been honestly bought and paid for!” In his moodier and more melodramatic moments (which hit frequently and without prediction), he either yelled at pieces of equipment that weren’t installing easily, vented his low opinion of our office bidder/estimator or grumbled about how tired he was of “all this shit.” He was a process-out-loud kind of guy who got frazzled when all the variables of our trade didn’t pull together smoothly. And I couldn’t quite gauge his humor. One minute, he fervently told me he cared more about accuracy than speed. The next minute, he’d stomp into my work area with a scowl and say, “We’re not crafting a watch, you know!” or “Making a career out of that or what?” At the end of our project, he handed me a cable termination tool and said, “Here! This is for you. You can probably use it soon.” Then he stomped off. Read the rest of this entry »


“The Talk”

Just because it’s the law doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Boys will be boys, right? (Wink, wink! Guffaw, guffaw!) In this male dominated world of skilled trades, I have mixed feelings about the sexual harassment training the IBEW foists upon its apprentices. As soon as the topic came up in our formal training, a tangible discomfort smothered the room. My class has four women and 22 men and all of a sudden, nobody was looking up or offering personal stories from the field. After some awkward silence, one guy shared experience from his military time: “Yeah, we had the one girl who was all loud. She was like one of the guys, ya know? And then she got a bad review, so right after that she made harassment charges and some of the guys got disciplined!”

Great. Thanks. What we’ve just learned through this guy’s tale (which was probably missing some facts) is that girls can twist the statute around into punitive measures, and that most allegations of sexual harassment are probably bogus or coming from somebody who is just “over-sensitive.” Read the rest of this entry »