We're celebrating National Apprenticeship Week all week long here at Optimation! As a part of our celebration, we're featuring interviews from one Optimation apprentice and one of our skilled journey workers each day this week. It's a chance to get to know some of our employees a little better, learn about the apprenticeship experience firsthand, and learn some wisdom from the folks who are fully immersed in their careers.
Next up, Journeyman Electrician and Trades Manager Dave Ignatowski and Electrical Apprentice Keith Bennett!
What trade did you enter? Electrical
What year did you start? Early 80s ... I don't remember the year!
What made you want to pursue a career as an electrician? I didn’t want to sweep floors for the rest of my life!
How did your career progress after your apprenticeship? Oh, it meandered. Back then it was a three-year program. We had two years completed, and Kodak ended their apprenticeships. So we got booted out. So, I went to work for another company for a few years, and in the meantime, Kodak started up its apprenticeship program again and so the manager there signed me up for my last year of classes. So, I was taking the classes and going for my Master’s license at the same time. And I ended up with my Master’s license before I had my graduation papers. Then it just went on from there. At Elmgrove, I had a work assignment as an electrical inspector there. And then I went back into the field, because that’s what I wanted to do. I worked in the field for years, then got another job as an electrical inspector at Kodak Park. I came to Optimation in 2011 doing field work. Came back after a bunch of projects to become an electrical job superintendent, and then electrical trades manager.
What have you enjoyed about your career? Working with the guys in construction. It was a ball, it really was. You went to work, you enjoyed it, you got dirty. Being in the field was the best part.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got from a coworker or a mentor? Invest in a 401K. Take a little piece and keep going with it.
What excites you about the next generation of apprentices? They’re very willing. Most of the folks we’ve had have been very successful. They want to learn, they want to please.
How can the next generation of apprentices be successful? Be the apprentice of choice. You want to be the apprentice that, when I’m doing work assignments, a mechanic picks you out and says they want to work with you. You don’t want to be the one that makes a mechanic think he’d rather do the work himself. It doesn’t have to be your technical skills that will get you there. It has to be your willingness to work, to anticipate what your mechanic needs next, rather than standing around with your hands in your pockets waiting to be told what he needs. Don’t wait to be asked to do something. If there’s nothing to do, pick up a broom. You’re getting paid. Be a help.
What trade are you learning? Electrical
What year are you into your apprenticeship? 3rd year
What do you like about the program so far? We’re getting a lot of hands on experience, we get to learn all the different aspects of the trade, really. They’re throwing us into a lot of different places, different environments. We get some industrial experience, a little bit of commercial experience. We do a lot of different installs.
Anything about the apprenticeship that you didn’t expect? Not really, it’s kind of what I thought it would be.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far? I worked on the Apeel project, that was pretty interesting. We got to see not just the electrical aspect of it but how the machines are going to process all of the produce. And with that you get to apply all of your electrical skills to it, and learn a little bit of the engineering too. That was kind of nice.
What goals or plans do you have after you finish the program? I’d like to stay here and work my way along. I would like to learn a little more of the engineering end of electrical, so I can apply more to the jobs.
What is the best advice you’ve received so far from one of your Optimation coworkers? Take advantage of the opportunities that they’re going to offer you. Optimation is giving us the schooling, which really helps. And we’ve been offered some classes outside of that, really good opportunities to advance. If you’re willing to take advantage of those opportunities, it’s a really good way to move up.