BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Friday was Mark Hyman first day of work at the medical offices under construction at Buck Owens Boulevard. Two years ago he found out there were opening in a local electrician apprentice program and he decided it was time to change his career.
"I came out here and applied," said Hyman. "They got me working right away. So from there I took the test and then I took my interview and I got in."
Hyman is currently in his second year of the five-year apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or I.B.E.W. 428. And he said so far it's been the right move for him.
"The jobs before, it was more monotonous. Now it's, I'm learning different stuff. I get to learn how the world is built," said Hyman.
Heading into 2019, future electricians like Hyman are in demand. I.B.E.W. business manager, Jim Elrod, said they're looking to hire 50 to 100 new workers to fill journeyman lineman positions for all the work they're expecting in 2019, including local roads projects and the high-speed rail.
"The infrastructure has to be moved," said Elrod. "A lot of the utilities have to be moved. A lot of the lighting has to be installed for the signs and along the roads. The high-speed rail is obviously, it's electrified. So the entire high-speed rail runs off electricity."
Elrod said they're also looking for future apprentice. That they can train workers with limited to no experience to become journeyman electricians, who will need to fill vacancies left by Baby Boomers.
"That means we have to bring in new people to train through our five year apprenticeship, we have to take people who are already doing the work and bring them in just to offset the exit of the retirees," said Elrod.
He continued, "Someone who has no experience in the trade at all it's extremely important because most people are visual. Everything that they're going to experience in the field so when they see it for the first time on a job site they understand what it is that they see they recognize it. We combined what happens down here at the school with actual on the job training."
To join the apprentice program Elrod said all you need is a G.E.D. And at least a "C" in algebra. Starting salary for a first year apprentice is $18 dollars an hour plus benefits and a pension. Apprentices will also be trained once every two weeks for eight hours at the I.B.E.W. workshop and receive the rest of their training on the job site.
When the I.B.E.W. look for new people to fill those apprentice spots, Elrod said they try to first look locally.
"We want to get people who live in Kern County, train them, because they're more apt to stay in Kern County. This is where their families are, this is where their kids go to school, this is where they want to stay," said Elrod.
Back on the job site, Hyman said he likes knowing his new career has a lot more stability than his last one.
"I'm ecstatic, I mean, I know I'm always going to be working," said Hyman. "And I won't have to look far for work. I won't even have to look for work the union looks for work for us."
And for future apprentices like Hyman, he has these thoughts for whoever is looking to make the same career move he made.
"It's really what you want out of life. I feel like if you want to learn. If you want a future that's steady, a future that you can rely on. If you want something like that, if you want to succeed in life, I feel like the union is the best way to go," said Hyman.