This past Thursday was a monumental moment. I had a chance to see my peers all dressed up, ready and excited to graduate. We even had a mini-reunion with many of my classmates from day school. The school arranged for us to have a pre-gathering where individual and group pictures could be taken and information dispersed. I received a letter that informed me that my “top-out” date is June 1st. That means that I will officially become a Journeyman three days before graduation! On that date, I shall pay the difference in dues at the hall, and I will henceforth receive Journeyman wages. I recently explained to someone what this last raise increase means in layman’s terms. Currently, 5th year apprentices are paid approximately $31/hr. As of your top-out date, that jumps to $40/hr. For those unfamiliar with hourly wages, what that translates to is a jump from $60,000/year to $80,000/year. With that kind of income, it pays to be a good, well-trained skilled worker. Many of my fellow apprentices have had the good fortune to buy a house, new vehicles and start a family, even in their mid-twenties! I can not complain either: I’ve been able to build up a comfortable cushion of emergency fund savings, a personal IRA, an annuity account through the Local, and have maintained the repayment of my student loans and mortgage costs, purchased two used vehicles, and have shaped up an incredible credit score!
These are exciting times.
What makes it all the more exciting is that there are so many opportunities ahead. There is no such thing as feeling like union construction is a “dead-end” job. Not only are there a variety of work responsibilities out in the field, like being a sub-foreman, foreman, service truck electrician, superintendent, project manager, estimator, or company owner, but there’s also the behind-the-scenes individuals who work hard to keep everyone moving. The instructors at the school, the administration of the JATC, all the personnel and leadership at the Local Union Hall… the list goes on.
Very exciting times.
When we all gathered in a group for these photographs, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride and dignity. It was a struggle for many to get through these five years, and yet we made it. Through personal sacrifice and diligence, we stood together, hundreds strong. We congratulated each other and shared a few moments of joy, suited up and posing for the camera. And whether or not others will admit it, I know for a fact I was not alone in feeling that pride in our accomplishments.