After 10 years working in Texas oil fields, Cory Oakes was done. Tired of the boom-bust cycle of oil-industry employment and looking to spend more time in the mountains, Cory and his family moved to Pueblo, Colo. where his wife had family nearby.
His father-in-law had once remarked that Cory, a natural tinkerer, would make a great electrician. Curious about the profession and in need of a job, Cory walked into the Pueblo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee office sat down with training director Dan Kraus and within hours had become a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) with a job at Adams Electric Inc.
Hundreds of hours of classes, at least 8,000 hours in the field and one licensing test later, Cory is poised to break out from his status as an indentured apprentice to join the ranks of journey-worker electricians and 2021 Emily Griffith graduates.
“I have been very fortunate,” Oakes said. “Adams Electric has been wonderful to me and now my wife also works here in accounts receivable and is part of the safety committee. They have been phenomenal.”
Kelsey Glass, Emily Griffith’s associate dean for Apprenticeships, explained that apprenticeships can set people up for life. “Why the apprenticeship model is so amazing is that apprentices are employed while they’re learning, and they are set to receive required pay increases throughout the program.”
The College currently offers 10 apprenticeship programs that include the Electrician Apprenticeship Cory is graduating from as well as a Carpenter Apprenticeship, Ironworker Apprenticeship, Plumber Apprenticeship and even a Web Developer apprenticeship. In addition to the on-the-job training apprentices complete, they also take classes provided through Emily Griffith in partnership with the apprenticeship sponsors.
In his case, Cory took 225 class hours for four years on top of his full-time job as an apprentice. As part of this program, he received numerous pay raises from his starting pay at $11/hour in the early days of his program to the pay increase he’ll see when he breaks out as a journeyman electrician in July, which boosts his hourly wage to nearly $29/hour.
“I didn’t know anything about electricity when I started,” Cory said, who in the last four years has amassed experience in residential, commercial and industrial wiring along with estimating. “I knew there was a black wire and a white wire and that was it.”
Equipped with the real-world education he’s received and a newly minted IBEW journeyman’s card in his back pocket, Cory can work almost anywhere in the world. “I was told early on,” he said, “show up and the sky’s the limit.”