New Job

My general foreman and superintendent amazed me by honoring my request to rotate out of “the big job”. They could have easily laid me off or sent me to a different big job. I am now working for the Service Department of the same electrical shop. My job sites are more varied and at times, I feel like I’m in over my head. I miss my old crew fiercely. Read the rest of this entry »

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Young Lady

The words we use with each other matter. Yet sarcasm and jokes and silliness are a dominant flavor in the way me and my crew communicate. This morning, while in the prep-shop, a foreman from a different crew came in. His head was down, his brow was puckered and he was leafing through a stack of blueprints on the other side of the room. Rather than interrupting him, I continued cutting my pieces of conduit. Once he found what he was looking for on the prints, he greeted me with, “Aaaaaaand how are we this morning, young lady?” Jokingly, I replied, “I’m neither young nor a lady!” He scowled, and I could safely guess he was unaware of the condescending tone in his voice and the patronizing nature of the words he used. 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 »


The Dance

Whenever I start working with somebody new – which is often because of both this line of work and being an apprentice – I notice the same pattern of sussing out “who – excactly – ARE you?” happening through conversation and non-verbal cues.

Some of the directly verbal questions that almost always come out are:

– What did you do before you decided to become an electrician?
– How old are you?
– Are you married? / How many kids do you have?
– Where did you grow up? / Where are you from?
– Where do you live?
– So…what made you decide to be an electrician?
– What does your partner/husband/significant other do?

Can you imagine asking some of these questions in such a point-blank manner to a fellow office worker? Read the rest of this entry »


The Break Up

Last week, I broke up with my electrical contractor. I need to see what other contractors offer and I want to look out for my best training interests.

My manager was pissed: I was punished for being the rat fleeing a sinking ship; or I was some kind of traitor because I wasn’t blithely waiting around. He called at the end of the day last Friday said, “I had work for you on Monday, but I heard you want to go to another shop. Which is it?” It felt like it was too late for me to accept bona fide electrical work from him. If he truly had a work assignment for me, I would have happily taken it. However, just the day before, he told me: 1) there wasn’t much on the horizon, but he’d let me know as soon as there was; 2) three other company apprentices were sitting out and waiting for work to pick up; 3) there were over 60 apprentices waiting for work through the training center; 4) the field is flooded with electricians right now because travelers are clamoring for a huge project in our area. He made it sound like I had no other choice but to stay loyal and wait. Read the rest of this entry »