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Not Just a Trade School
By Matthew Morris, Louisville, Kentucky

When I graduated high school, I did what is expected of every high school graduate: I went to college. I was a good student. I went to class, made average grades, and worked hard because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. As I thought about my future, I realized that working in an office all day was not what I wanted.

As a high school student, I worked summers as an electrician. The joy I got from working with my hands, solving problems, being a part of a team, and taking so much pride in my work was something I felt I could not get in a typical business setting. So I decided to leave college and fulfill a dream of mine that would allow me to have personal satisfaction in my job. This was not an easy decision; society tells us that college is the only appropriate higher education and that any other form of post-graduate education is less meaningful. I had allowed society to make me feel this way for a while, but eventually, I recognized that my passion lies in the skilled trades.

I am proud of what I have accomplished since enrolling in the IEC Apprentice Training Program. I have passed my state journeyman's test and will take my master's test at the end of this school year. Also, I am on the brink of completing my fourth year of school and have learned more than I ever thought possible. The most valuable lesson I have learned is to appreciate how important the IEC Apprentice Training Program is. Many people may look at the program as "just a trade school," but to me it is more than that.

To me, completing these four years of classes is just as respectable as any college bachelor's degree.

Currently, there is a higher percentage of people going to typical four-year colleges and getting degrees. When they graduate, they realize they must compete with thousands of other recent graduates for an increasingly small pool of jobs. In fact, many college graduates are finding it impossible to find a career that allows them to work within their trained field. With the electrical trade and the IEC Apprentice Training Program, I have received an education I can use as I go through the school. IEC students compete against fewer people for jobs and can apply for higher-level jobs when they graduate and get their license.

In ten years, I would not be surprised to find electricians are paid more than certified Personal Accountants (CPAs) due to the ever-growing number of people shunning trade schools as legitimate forms of education. If I could talk to graduating seniors in high school, I would tell them that any post-high school education is a higher education that will benefit them. If they are interested in a field whose expertise will always be needed, they should consider entering the Apprentice Training Program.

IEC and the Odyssey of My Life
By Jessie Woodward, Atlanta, Georgia

My life was going absolutely nowhere. I was working as an apprentice for a commercial electrician living paycheck to paycheck and borrowing in between. My father, who was my closest friend and had the strongest influence, had just died from a massive heart attack. He wanted me to make a good life for myself by going to college and graduating, but I let him down more than a few times. I decided something had to change.

Simply by chance, I convinced my employer to send me to the IEC Apprentice Training Program. He paid for all my books and tuition. In January of 2010, I enrolled and begun the apprentice program.

Two weeks before my first class, my wife of eight years left me for another man, taking our two sons with her. I struggled to concentrate in class, at home, and on job site. I had no place to live, no money, and no real friends. I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up.

I struggled day-by-day to make ends meet, but with the help of my family, I began to piece my life back together. I reconnected with my high school sweetheart, a woman whose support gave me the strength to change my life. With her inspiration, my focus was on one thing: making my future the best I possibly could by graduating.

Then it happened. I was laid off. I had just started Advanced Motors & Controls in the IEC Curriculum and almost immediately became unemployed. I turned to IEC for help and received more than I could have hoped for. I was without a job for a week and a half, and then found myself in an unusual situation: I couldn't decide which job offer to take! My resume had been updated; I had specialized training now. I had references and certifications through IEC that I never had before. Employers wanted me!

IEC gave me the direction I needed. My position with Delta of Georgia has given me the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I received at IEC. I was offered this position because of the certifications I received through IEC. Shortly thereafter, I accepted a seat on the IEC Safety Committee representing Delta of Georgia, Inc. and have since been promoted to Safety Coordinator for my company.

Currently, I'm in my final year at IEC. My next step is to enroll in the License Prep Course in pursuit of a state license. My career has truly just begun and I believe that IEC made this possible for me. I have a good job, a wonderful lady, loving children, and an education to brag about.

I'm very thankful to have been given the opportunity to become a student again. It's truly amazing how many doors have opened for me since I began training at IEC. I know my father would be proud of me.

Why I chose to become an Electrician
By Robert Thompson, Columbus, Ohio

A wise man once told me, "A job is something you have to do, but a career is something you choose to do and love." It took awhile for me to figure out what that meant.
It occurred to me a little over four years ago when I realized that I didn't want just a job; I wanted a career. I was determined to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. When I did realize what it was, it was like a "light bulb" moment for me. You know the kind of moment when your face lights up and you're like, "Wow, he was right!"?

I'd always had an interest in the electrical field, but never really knew how to get started. Then I met Gary Bailey who was in the IEC Apprenticeship Program and he was excited to tell me about it. So with some help from Gary and an opening at K.M.A. Electric, I began my journey.

Shortly after starting my job at K.M.A., the owner, Kelly Ault, asked me if I would like to go to school. I decided then and there to enroll in the IEC Apprentice Training Program, and started a new chapter in my life.

The day that school started couldn't come soon enough for me. I sat there and listened as my first year instructor, Kirk, introduced himself and started going over the material. By the first break, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. I thought to myself, "Dear God, please help me through this." As time went on, I learned a lot from Kirk and from my other instructors Clay, Craig, and now Lamont. With God's help, along with a lot of hard work and those good instructors, I have almost reached the goal of completing my apprenticeship. I'll be graduating in just a month or so, and one of the most important things I've learned is to never quit setting goals. When you reach one goal, you set another.

If you would have asked me where I would find myself four years ago, I might have told you anything but being an electrician. It amazes me that on this roller coaster of life, opportunities presented come and go so fast; you don't realize until it's too late that you've missed them. I thank God that I didn't miss the opportunity of apprenticeship with IEC, and that I embraced the opportunity when it presented itself.

In closing, you may ask who or what influenced my decision to become an electrician. I guess I would say that many things helped me decide, and to pinpoint the most important one would be impossible. I do know that I'm very thankful that I made the decision and would do it all over again. You would find me in Kirk's class, at the IEC Training Center, on day-one of the start of my career as an electrician.

The Story of My Electrical Career
By Greg Watkins, Memphis, Tennessee

After high school, I decided that junior college was my best route for building a career. I was, by no means, a very good student. Throughout my education I was a bright kid, but my mind was more geared towards hands-on applications. I liked to dream up ideas and build things, so drafting and design was my focus for study. After years of working nights in all sorts of dead end jobs and struggling through school, I was able to become a home designer.

The entire time I worked and strived to do better, my best friend was earning much better money than I was. He worked for an electrical contractor and began an apprenticeship with IEC directly after high school. His entire experience during school was never the amount of time and financial struggle that mine was. We were competitive with each other in our careers, but he consistently earned considerably more than me. Though I was discouraged, I always held out that my path would pay off in the long run. However, I was miserable at my job. I was a prisoner to my desk and I was desperate to escape the career that I had fought so hard to build.

In 2007, the housing market took a major hit and our office phone had simply stopped ringing. I was facing an inevitable layoff, so I went to my friend and asked for a connection into the electrical trade. Immediately I knew electrical work was for me; every day was different and I traveled to places that I never knew existed. There were many challenges but I never encountered anything insurmountable. After a few months, my employer sponsored me as an apprentice through IEC. The classroom curriculum consists of electrical theory coupled with the National Electrical Code®, which is taught by experienced professionals in the electrical industry.

This priceless combination teaches real world applications. Our discussions are in-depth and there is never a class where I feel that I don't gain a deeper knowledge of my trade. All along the way, I have found that anyone with a desire can succeed and graduate from this program no matter what their circumstances are. The mentors and support will be there waiting for anyone willing to help themselves.

When I changed careers, my wife and I were raising three children on my single income. The transition was tough but possible. My bills were paid because I never stopped earning, I will graduate without any student debt, and my earnings have surpassed those of my past career. I could have never done this if I decided to go back to college. To sum this up, the IEC Apprentice Training Program has been the best opportunity to ever fall in my lap. Formal college is not for everyone.

Some people are meant to be doers, and IEC is a direct ticket to a doer-type career that anyone can be proud of.

My Journey into the Electrical Industry
By Jeffery L. Phillips, Lexington, Kentucky

At the age of 30, I was working at a car dealership doing detail work. One of my customers was Art Montfort, the owner of Art's Electric. I spoke with him briefly about my past experience in electrical work, although I had no formal education in the field, and how I would like to pursue that career path. I'm not much of a talker but I like building and creating things, working with my hands, problem solving, and accomplishing tasks. I came to realize that I never felt more challenged or accomplished than when I was working in the electrical field years earlier.

Art and I had a few casual conversations, and he knew that I had not yet completed my GED. Art saw my passion for the electrical industry, and the passion to become better than I was. I wanted to be successful and create a better life for my family. Art encouraged me to complete my GED, work for him as an apprentice, and then enroll in school.

I was from a large family of five boys, and was raised by my mother and grandmother. I saw the challenges my mother faced as a single parent on a fixed income. She did farm work, cleaned houses, and did odd jobs to support our family. Her struggles taught me to have a strong work ethic. Something I will always remember from growing up is that my grandmother made quilts as a gift to each of her grandchildren after they graduated high school. Since I never graduated, I never received my quilt. I didn't know it, but she had kept my quilt for all these years. After I passed my GED, she gave it to me. I will never forget how accomplished, proud, and thankful I felt at that exact moment.

A few days after I passed my GED, I went to see Art. True to his word, he put me through the application and screening process and brought me on board at Art's Electric. Three months later, I started. After not cracking a book open in 12 years, it wasn't easy. That first year of the apprenticeship was difficult. I thought that there was no way that I would make it through the four-year training program. Yet, here I am.

I have now completed the four-year IEC Apprentice Training Program. It sounds strange, but it feels like both the longest and shortest four years of my life. I have lost both my grandmother and mother since I started the program. Along with Art Montfort, their words of encouragement and faith carried me through. I contribute my success in the program to the encouragement of someone who I now consider to be my mentor, Art Montfort, as well as my late mother and grandmother.