In just one year, Matt Harper went from being a student at Fishers High School in Fishers, Indiana, to a career as an electrician, earning money that he couldn’t imagine when he was working his part-time job, bussing tables at a restaurant.
“I’m still learning and getting the hang of it, but I really like it,” Harper says. “The fact that I can understand the basics of something as complicated as electricity and how to make something happen that we take for granted, like a light switch going on, is amazing to me.”
Harper began exploring apprenticeships as a high school senior. His school counselor introduced him to opportunities with Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Inc.
As part of his apprenticeship, Harper will earn an associate degree in applied science from Vincennes University, and receive a journeyworker’s card after completing the curriculum and 8,000 hours of on-the-job-learning.
On choosing his trade: “I wanted a skill I could take anywhere. Society always needs electricity, and there will always be appliances and equipment that run on electricity and will need someone who can work on them.”
On the job: Harper’s apprenticeship is with Gaylor Electric, which sends him to a variety of jobs at many different locations, including residential and new construction sites, as well as service calls.
“Working everyday is a very big adjustment from high school and it took some time to get used to it. I have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get to work on time. I’m also the youngest person on every job site, but when I am working and have a question, I just ask. The other guys have taken me under their wing, and just coach me through it. On Tuesday nights, I go to school with other ABC apprentices.”
Opportunity: While showing up late to work doesn’t look good, failing a drug test can end a career. But for those who take their apprenticeship seriously, Harper sees plenty of opportunity. “I see new hardhats and new faces everywhere I go. Construction and electrical work are constantly growing.”
Advice: “If you are thinking about learning a trade, make sure you will be able to live that life and be happy with it. College is nice, but it is not everything. There are other options, so don’t cancel out decisions that could help give you a better life.”