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Richard's Story

Growing up in Silicon Valley with an auto mechanic dad, Rich loved to tinker. He still remembers his greatest teenage prank: he found an old fire alarm and figured out how to wire it so it would go off whenever his father opened the garage door.

As an adult, Rich joined the Marine Corps, married, and moved to Michigan, where he worked for UPS. When his family moved back to San Jose, he started working a desk job in real estate.

Now 50 years old with a wife, a daughter and triplet boys, he wanted to find a better career. He had always been interested in the electrical field, and they made good money, so he applied to the Electrical apprenticeship program. He scored well on the initial test, but they suggested he enroll in the Trades Orientation Program to gain a broader understanding of the field and construction work.

“The most surprising thing about the TOP program,” says Rich, “was seeing what all the other trades do, and how all the trades work together as a team on the site. It’s not just about an individual, their crew, or an individual trade.”

After he graduated from TOP, he handed in his certificate to the IBEW local and three weeks later, he was brought on as an apprentice. He’s been sent to work at several different sites; his current job is at an apartment complex development.

Rich says the job and the work culture is even better than he expected. They really engage their membership, they value a fair day of work for a fair wage, they work hard, and they are very family-oriented. After he completes the 5-year apprenticeship and makes journeyman, he would like to become an apprentice instructor himself.

Rich’s family is very excited about his career change—his sons especially. They call him a construction worker, want to know if he drives a tractor, and love seeing his tools.

Rich’s advice to people considering joining TOP: “Give yourself a chance to see if you really want to be in a trade—and be persistent if you do.”