Interview with an Apprentice – Laura Varela

Interview with an Apprentice – Laura Varela



January 27, 2021

Laura Varela entered the electrical field right after graduating high school in 2015. Her journey in the field started and continues at Corbins Electric. Throughout her apprenticeship, she has explored different avenues within the electrical trade. What’s made her experience so great has been the opportunity to work alongside a team of amazing individuals who have served as mentors and guides helping her to achieve her short-term goal of becoming a Journeyman Electrician.

Read this interview with Laura and find out why an Apprenticeship just might be the right fit for you to start paving the way to a brighter future!

  1. What is an Apprenticeship and what got you interested?

An Apprenticeship is a program that a company can offer their employees to further their education. The education is specific for the job the employee is performing. They are willing to pay all tuition costs as long as the employee passes classes with an A or B letter grade.

I decided that joining my company’s Apprenticeship Program was the right move for me because I wanted to gain electrical understanding. I wanted to be able to have more options in the future in regard to my career in this skilled craft. 

I chose an apprenticeship program rather than attending a College or a University because you can easily show your employer the progress you are making. They can easily talk to my instructor or look at what I’m currently learning. Because they are more familiar with my performance, that makes it easier when it comes time to ask for a raise or requesting to be placed in a certain area. The Apprenticeship Committee has a pay scale that they must go by when paying our Apprentices, dependent on what semester an apprentice is in. What’s cool about Corbins is they almost always pay more than the required pay rate; it makes you feel really valued as an Apprentice. 

  1. What can you tell us about your current Apprenticeship?

The Apprenticeship Program that Corbins Electric offers is a 4-year (8 semester) program. Unlike traditional school programs, Corbins Apprentices take 2 weeks each semester away from work to attend a facility where an electrical instructor will teach them trade specific concepts. 

Corbins will pay 100% of tuition (like many other companies that provide this type of support for schooling) if we follow the requirements. The minimal weekly cost for classes is taken out of your paycheck, then if you pass your classes with an A or B, you will receive that money back as a reimbursement, almost like a monetary bonus for doing well! If you do not pass your class with either of those grades, you do not receive that reimbursement.

  1. Why are Apprenticeships so valuable and how has it helped you get to where you are today?

Attending an Apprenticeship Program is valuable because, if completed, it is proof that an individual is well rounded in their specific role. When the Foreman (supervisor) that I am working under knows I am in our Apprenticeship Program, they take the time to place me with a skilled Journeyman to learn the hands-on portion of the trade.  They know exactly where you are in school, so they are able to place you in areas of the work that applies to what you are learning in school.

Nothing tops field experience because it definitely gives me an advantage, as apprentices are given a bit more control on what they learn in the field.

  1. Who are Apprenticeships meant for?

In order for any brand-new electrician (or any other skilled craft where you start in an apprenticeship) to become a successful Apprentice (soon to be Journeyman), they must be dedicated to learning.  You’ll need to be adaptable to any situation that crosses your path, sometimes you have to quickly make decisions and move from one task to the next.

You also will need to be goal-oriented to want to take that next step and make this a career rather than just a job that you clock in and out for. Dedication to your trade is a huge must-have for this position! Your dedication determines how much you learn in the field and how quickly you grow professionally. Your dedication will be something your superiors are looking for when it comes to you taking the next step up from an Apprentice.

  1. What should a person specifically look for in an apprenticeship?

When looking into Apprenticeships, an individual should look at the duration of the program and the overall cost of the program. The typical Apprenticeship program spans about four years, and there is a financial dedication that you’ll have to consider if you don’t have a company that will pay for your schooling. Programs like IEC and ABA have different tuition costs so looking into those costs will give you an idea what your company or you will need to pay.

  1. What certifications or credibility does an apprenticeship add to your resume when looking for aposition in the skilled crafts?

When an individual completes an Apprenticeship Program, they will receive a certificate from the Department of Labor that specially notifies any future employers that the individual on the certificate is competent in their line of work. This certificate shows that you have dedicated yourself for 4 years (appx. 8,000 hours) to learn the trade. 

In the electrical trade, that certificate means you are considered a Journeyman and qualified to take the exam to become a Licensed Journeyman in some states if you ever decide to travel for work. 

  1. What are the next steps for you as an apprentice and how long will it take for you to get there?

I am currently attending my 2nd year of my Apprenticeship. I have 2 years to go to complete the program. After, I will work towards becoming a Foreman or an Electrical Engineer in my company. 

I’ve discussed with our Workforce Development department and shared my long-term goals of becoming a Project Engineer within the company. We have set power moves for me to learn more about the position throughout these next 4 years so that when I graduate, the transition is made.

It is an amazing feeling to see where I am heading because it gives me a strong mindset to continue to go to work and work hard because I know they are watching and helping. 

8.What are your best tips for a current of future apprentice? (networking, etc)

For anyone considering joining an Apprenticeship Program, it is definitely worth the time to look into the Apprenticeship Programs that are offered here in Arizona, which are usually just a Google search away. Each Apprenticeship Program will have a list of companies that they work with. Looking into those companies and applying to them would be a great next step.

You should get familiar with the trade and company before committing to attend that Apprenticeship Program. Each company has their own guidelines they will offer when sending an employee through the program.