Join Bridget Quinn for an in-depth discussion in this video — Learning break —, part of Skilled Trades: Construction Apprenticeship Foundations.
(gentle music) - So let's just take a little break from the course and I'll tell you a little bit how I became involved in the construction industry. When I was in school, I was the kind of kid that was always outside building forts. I have memories of just cutting through pieces of wood with the handsaw just 'cause I thought it was fun. But for some reason, the trades were never presented to me as an option of something that I might like to do when I completed high school. I was always gravitated towards hands-on things so I definitely took the shop classes we had in high school. And when those went away, I ended up gravitating towards art classes and art was my thing for a long, long time. I was really into photography and actually went off to art school after high school. I studied photography and print-making. But there was a summer that I started working as a bicycle mechanic and that changed my life. I was excited to go to work every day. I never hit that snooze button. I actually had trouble falling asleep at night sometimes 'cause I would think about the way that the gears and the derailleurs and the shifters all worked together. And I just loved the people and the environment of being active and working with tools and building things and fixing people's bikes for them. It was really cool. Now, I ended up quitting art school and moving from Boston to Portland. And when I arrived in Portland, I still had that bike mechanic thing in my mind. Like, God, that was so much fun and I just loved it so much. So I worked very briefly for a bicycle shop and it dawned on me, wow, this is really seasonal work. And it doesn't pay very well. And I'm not getting any kind of health benefits or retirement or anything like that. So, I started to look elsewhere. I ended up working in a saw shop. And that was great because it was active and it was a little bit more mechanical but still no real job future for me. So I ended up looking for any kind of hands-on job, and I ended up running into a electrician who was friends with some friends of mine. And he said, hey, I need a helper. I said okay, cool. I'm not going to be in food service. I'm not going to be stuck in an office. I'll come help you. And still, it took three months for the light above my head to go off, for me to realize, this is actually a career I could do. Why have I never considered this? So, I was very fortunate to meet that electrician. And so I applied for the apprenticeship. It took me three years to get in because the economy was kind of slow and I didn't have a wealth of hands-on experience. So in that timeframe, I ended up buying and remodeling a really old house, and when I went back to my second interview, I was able to show them all that work that I had done. And I guess I impressed them enough for them to give me seat in apprenticeship class. And here I am eighteen years later, just really happy that I found the trades. It was pretty terrifying, being a woman entering the trades. I remember my electrician friend drove me down to the training center to pick up the application information and we accidentally went into the union hall instead. And it was full of a bunch of men drinking coffee and playing pool and I felt like every eyeball was on me and I felt really insecure. However, when I got into my apprenticeship class, there was one other gal in the class. So that was pretty nice to have her around. When I got out into the field, one of my first journeymen was a woman. And so that really helped strengthen my commitment, yeah I belong here. And she was pretty high up in the company so I saw that there was room and openness for advancement for women in the construction trades. I think that if, if my career counselors in high school could have better identified a good fit for the trades, if anybody in the employment office was more savvy about pointing people towards apprenticeship, that would have been great. Today, things have changed a lot in the workforce development realm. Employment offices know all about apprenticeships now and career counselors are finally on track, being able to identify youth that would benefit from the trades. So the electrical industry is taken me from a place where I was in debt, I didn't have a career, I didn't really know how to get on track to what I wanted to do. And now I'm in a place where I'm completely independent, self- sufficient, I have a great future ahead of me. Yeah, it's just been a great choice that I've made in my life.