April 1, 2021
By Darci Spiteri
Being a female in the trade and a new apprentice, I had no idea what to expect on this jobsite. I knew I would be working at a school, with no idea what that entailed. It ended up being a completely new build, and I was grateful to see this job from start to finish. The guys I worked with that first day were great. They were helpful and made me feel comfortable right away. I didn’t know what to expect, so I felt fortunate to have this support right off the bat.
I did a pre-apprentice course, so I wasn’t coming in completely blind to the trade. But when I started, my expectation was that I was going to be the best. I would be top of my class and would be what every employer wanted. Reality: I was 35, hadn’t been in school for over ten years, and never took my extra math and sciences when I was in high school. Enter algebra and electrical theory. It was hard. I had some moments thinking I could not do this, but I had a support system that would push me through that hard time and help me realize I could do it.
This prepared me for my first year as an apprentice. I went in with the mentality that I would be as helpful as I could, show that I wanted to be there and that I wanted to learn. I think this mentality is something people look for. This is an opportunity that some really need to work for, and for me, it didn’t come easy.
I set high expectations for myself but had the pre-apprentice experience that I may not always be the best, but to learn from every opportunity. I have a good work ethic and a can-do attitude that has gotten me to this point. That will take you far and is essential. People recognized that, and I was commended for it. I take pride in my work and myself and cannot stress enough how important that is.
I expected to have some hard days, and the reality was I did. I had some days where all I did was clean up, and those days felt so long and hard. Was I doing this because they didn’t trust me to do things? Is this me earning my place? These grunt jobs can feel like punishment sometimes, but when I look back on it now, I was the one person who knew where everything was. I would learn so much about the materials, when to use them and what they were. I encourage you to always look for the learning opportunity. Ask questions. This is your apprenticeship and take control of that.
Takeaway: I expected to just be taught. The reality is, you are more in charge of your learning. So, take every opportunity to learn. You have 9000 hours to take advantage of the knowledge that is out there. Don’t waste it.
Darci Spiteri is an apprentice with IBEW. Learn more about her journey and advocacy for the trade on her website www.sparks2sparkles.com
Darci started on her electrical journey in 2018, when she received the Second Career Grant. She started a Pre-Apprentice Program at The Centre for Skilled Trades in Burlington, Ontario. After graduating from the 5-month program, she set out to find a sponsor for her Apprenticeship. She worked with an electrician for a bit before finding the intake with the IBEW in Hamilton. In May of 2019 she was accepted into the Apprenticeship program and was the only female in her intake. There was a bit of time on the “Ready to Work” list but by January 2020 she was called in to officially start her apprenticeship.