Emily Picker, age 17
Upper Valley Career Center Student
Pre-Apprentice at Sollman Electric Co.
How did you learn about apprenticeship?
I visited the electrical trades program because of a few of my friends and my brother, who was in electrical trades. Originally, I was going to do cosmetology, but I found out I had a passion for electrical trades and switched my career path. I’m more of a hands-on, “get dirty” kind of person. When I talked to the Apprenticeship Coordinator at Upper Valley, he told me that the UVCC and employers are always in need of more talented women to work for them. All the guys I work with treat me really well, they treat me like their own, I don’t get judged and they welcome me like they would anyone else.
What or who inspired you to pursue apprenticeship?
UVCC has ambassadors that they send to home schools to talk about the program to all the sophomores so they know what the career center has to offer. Originally, I didn’t even know what electrical trades was, so when I talked to an ambassador more about it, I really knew I wanted to pursue it.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I work at Sollmann Electric as a pre-apprentice. I do anything I can do – I run a lot of conduit and wire. I help out anywhere I can and learn from everyone I can while I can. The people I work with are always very willing to help me learn more.
What surprised you most about apprenticeship?
I didn’t expect to make as much money as I did this summer – it was crazy. I didn’t know much prior to the program but I was able to walk out onto the job and now I’m making great money and learning at the same time, it’s the best of both worlds. Once I graduate, I’ll be working for the company I work for now and they will send me to classes on the weekend to get my journeyperson’s license.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I like everything I do but probably running conduit – I’m not good yet but I really like doing it.
What did it mean to you to receive a paycheck while training?
It was unexpected and meant a lot to me. And I didn’t even feel like I was working – when I was at work, it felt like I was at school and getting paid to do it.
Why did you choose apprenticeship over the traditional college route?
I think apprenticeship is a great way to get your foot in the door by saving money and saving time. It’s like college, but you’re actually out there working and not stuck in classes. I am planning on going to college after I get my journeyperson’s after 3 years so that I can get a construction management or similar degree.
Would you recommend apprenticeship to your closest friends?
Yes! A lot of my friends are girly-girls but I recommend it to anyone who likes hands-on working and learning. I am actually an ambassador for Upper Valley Career Center so I go to schools all the time to recommend apprenticeship to others. Honestly, you’d have to be closed-minded to not want to try apprenticeship. It makes so much sense!
What’s it like to be a woman in apprenticeship?
I tell girls “don’t be afraid” because I was. I was scared to walk into the job site and be made fun of. I’m competing for Miss Ohio and I model on the side, so nobody would ever guess I’d want to be an electrician. I thought people could judge me for that.
Don’t let anything stop you. Don’t let the guys stop you. I joke around like any of the guys I work with, I act like they do, and they treat me like a sister or daughter. There’s no trade for women and there’s no trade for men… nowadays, anyone can do anything, so go for it!! I am top in my class because the guys underestimated me and I had to push myself even more to get to the top.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your time as an apprentice?
Being a girl – I hate saying that, but people second guess you before they know you. It can be very frustrating but being a girl in the construction trades, you’re bound to see some of that. That being said, you need to do what you love, even if you get judged for doing it, because if you don’t, you’ll regret missing the opportunity.
What is the best way to attract more talented apprentices like yourself?
I really stress money when I describe it to people in high school. Look at it this way, most people hate sitting in school all day all the time. With apprenticeship, you’re out there moving around and learning and making money. The pre-apprenticeship program offers the opportunity to rotate between two weeks of school and two weeks of work, so it never feels like I’m stuck in the classroom and I always look forward to one or the other.
What else would you like to tell us about your experience?
I have Miss Ohio this weekend – my platform is “women in trades”. I’m really trying to get the word out there about apprenticeship. That’s my talent and I’m going to spread the word about the apprenticeship program and how to become a woman in the trades.
About Upper Valley Career Center
High School students can begin their career pathway, earn college credits, and begin work in their field – all while remaining active in sports and other activities at their home school. We’ve been the area’s leader in STEM – Career and Technical Education for high school and adult students since 1975.
About Sollmann Electric Co.
Sollmann Electric has been in business since 1973 doing electrical construction. We are a fully bonded and insured electrical contractor located in Sidney, Ohio, servicing the commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential markets in the areas of electrical construction and electrical maintenance. We also design and install fire and security alarm systems, communication systems, phone systems, fiber optics, access control systems, central vacuum systems, as well as intercoms, sound systems, closed circuit TV systems, and computer network wiring.