Grad Q&A with Electrical Technology grad Kevin Wilson
At 42 years old Kevin Wilson lost his printing company job after 21 years on the presses. He could fold under the weight of unemployment, or he could look at this event as an opportunity to finally fulfill the career aspirations he had as a teenager when he wanted to be an electrician. He did not hesitate.
SJVC’s Electrical Technology (ET) program in Modesto came up on his search radar and set those somewhat rusty wheels into motion.
How did your job loss go from crisis to lucky break so quickly?
I never really liked printing, but it was a job, and I did it for 21-years. Still, after I lost my job, I had doubts about whether to stay in printing or go into the electrical field. My wife, Kristin, kind of nudged me and said, ‘If you’re going to start all over, start all over in something you’d like to do.’
I got online and started researching some schools. I didn’t know much about electricians, but I still had that interest.
What kinds of electrical education and training programs did you find online?
There were three options. One was a completely online school, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get hands-on experience to completely understand how to do it. And I wanted a school that had a lab so I could go and physically do the work that I was learning how to do. SJVC was the only one that had a lab. And the program cost was comparable.
Were there any big surprises once you started the Electrical Technology program?
I researched quite a bit into the program before I chose it so there were no surprises positive or negative. Except Covid. But staff was very supportive and there’s nothing anyone could have done about it. Everybody wore face masks and did what we had to do. We had a Covid check every day when we entered the building. It felt safe.
What was the best thing about the program for you?
The lab work for sure. Being able to take what we were learning and physically put it to use in the lab environment. The first time that I actually wired up an outlet, then connected it and turned the power on…and it worked…that was a phenomenal feeling. And I didn’t blow anything up! It was a big shot of adrenaline and good for my confidence. I was pretty much good-to-go after that.
And getting all As felt pretty good. It was a real confidence booster.
Did you struggle with any of the classes?
Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) was a very difficult course, but I passed it. PLC is more important in industrial areas, and I do residential and commercial. Industrial is a whole different animal. Residential or industrial is a preference for each individual to consider.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in this career field or to ET students who might not be quite up to the challenge?
This is a profession, a good career you’re getting into. But you have to work for it. You’re not going to be given everything in life; you’re going to have to earn it. And, if you do the work, you will pass. Put forth the effort. That’s all you have to do.
How important is a good support system when you are in back-to-school mode?
My wife was very supportive, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her. Kristin is an elementary school teacher and was the breadwinner of the family. I stayed unemployed so that I could focus solely on school. It wasn’t easy, but I just had to get through school then hit the job market.
Do you feel comfortable in this career choice and work environment?
Working with electricity is dangerous. It can kill somebody, hurt me, or start a fire. If you make a mistake or don’t do a good job, there are severe consequences. But I can do this without hurting anybody or myself.
And there’s job security. We need electricity to live. That’s a very crucial aspect in everyone’s life. For me to be able to help keep the lights on – it feels great. It has an impact on your mentality when you go to work.
I wanted my work to be needed. To me that’s a huge thing, especially if you’re going to do it every day. I wanted the output of my work to be worth it. I’m very happy with this career choice and I love the work.
You went to work right after you completed your program. How’s it going?
Every day I go to work it’s something new, something I haven’t done before. It can be a little intimidating, but it’s more exciting.
I work for a residential and commercial electrical company, and we do a lot of home remodels. One of the first jobs I worked on was a rough-in on a house. It’s laying out wires to receptacles, from a panel to an outlet – running all those wires to where a light or receptacle will go. There were no interior walls in the house; we drilled holes through studs to run wires. A couple of months later we went back to finish. Finally turning the lights on for the first time, I felt like a little kid when I hit the switch. Everything was so beautiful and bright. It was a great feeling, very satisfying.
It reaffirmed my decision that going back to school was the right decision and becoming an electrician was a right decision. Kind of made me regret that I hadn’t done this when I was a teenager.
What is your vision for the future in terms of job security and advancement?
We’re very busy, so I’m not too concerned with job security. As long as I’m progressing and continuing to learn, I’ll have no problem at all. In four years, I’ll become a Journeyman Electrician. Progression takes time, but it will happen.
What inspires you to push forward in this field?
One of the reasons I wanted to go through this program is that I wanted to do things around my own house and my parents’ house; to make their home a little better. And now I’m able to do that – which is amazing to me.
Did you get the life you imagined this career might provide?
Money can’t buy happiness, but in four years I’ll be making more than what it took me 21 years to get (in previous occupation). It will all take care of itself in the future.
And Kristin has made numerous comments about the attitude I have when I come home. I’m happier. Even my bad days are good days. I feel really lucky to be blessed to be where I’m at right now. I’m very, very happy with the decision I made.
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