It’s all in the family for the Grissom brothers.
Since 2007, there has always been a Grissom brother in WECA’s Riverside Apprenticeship program. And brothers Chad Sobloewski (29), Lance Robbins (28), Tommy Grissom (25), Michael Grissom (24), Tyson Grissom (22), and Skylar Grissom (19), wouldn’t have it any other way.
The one who started it all – Chad, the oldest – expressed that “going through the apprenticeship program with my siblings has been a cool experience, not only as their mentor, but seeing them establish themselves and learn the trade makes me feel like a very successful individual and a proud big brother.”
And judging by his brothers’ responses, it’s clear that they feel the same way.
Lance: “It was great being in the apprenticeship program with my brothers. I was able to work with three of them throughout my apprenticeship and it was definitely a good experience. Chad and I are currently on the same job right now and it’s nice having someone there to push you and constantly try to make you better.”
Tommy: “It’s nice to be able to motivate them to do their best and to be motivated by my older brothers. We all want to do good in life and support our families, and that’s what it’s all about. WECA has done all of us good and my last brother just got in so he will be starting his first class at the same time as my last class, so that’s pretty cool.”
Michael: “Being in the program with my brothers, I feel, gives us a better reason to do better. Everyone wants to do well, but when you have family go through it before you and you have a brother in the same class, it really makes you want to do better.”
Tyson: “I get to help my brothers with schoolwork and skills we learn in the field, and they do the same so we can all be smarter and safer at work.”
Skylar: “It’s nice having someone I know who can help me out when I need it, and show me tips and tricks.”
Growing up, both Chad and Tommy report that they were always inclined toward the electrical trade, with Chad stating that he “always had an interest in building things with my hands and watching it all come together” and Tommy acknowledging that “as a kid, electricity always interested me.”
The other brothers, however, came to love the electrical trade by experiencing their brothers’ passions for it.
Lance: “Honestly, becoming an electrician never crossed my mind before Chad got in. But once he got in and was telling me about it, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Michael: “My brothers were in [the field] and always talked about how great it was, and as I learned and worked more, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
Tyson: “My oldest brother was happy and successful as an electrician, and I wanted what he had, so I joined up.”
Skylar: “Seeing how well all my brothers had done made me want to have this as my career.”
If you’re thinking that the Grissom brothers’ situations are unique, they simultaneously are and are not.
According to a 2016 Facebook research study which analyzed the profiles of 2.37 million same-gender siblings – all of whom were no more than two years apart in age –in the United States, 15 percent of siblings share an occupation, in contrast to an 8.6 percent likelihood of sharing the same occupation for any two same-gender, same-age individuals in the rest of the population.
Fifteen percent isn’t a high rate of occurrence, when you factor into consideration the population of the United States in 2016, the year the study was conducted – 323.4 million – and assume that this phenomenon would repeat itself similarly in a non-Facebook-sanctioned study. But it’s not extremely uncommon, either.
That doesn’t make the Grissom brothers’ story any less extraordinary or heartwarming, though.
Read on to learn more about the Grissom brothers’ unique insight into and experience with WECA’s Riverside ATC program.
It’s common for younger brothers to hold their older brothers in high esteem.
However, it’s probably safe to say that Chad Sobloewski never dreamed that his five younger brothers would follow in his exact footsteps. You know what they say, though – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Chad enrolled in and started his commercial apprenticeship training at WECA’s Riverside facility in 2007. Though he at first knew nothing about WECA or its programs, he quickly realized the potential the program held for him and his family.
“Once I realized what the program had to offer, it turned out to be an awesome opportunity not only because of the knowledge I gained from the program, but also the opportunities it brought me throughout my career,” said Chad.
Not only that, but “the trade knowledge I have gained and the introduction to so many different systems gave me a leading edge in the industry and financial stability for my family. The on-the-job training combined with classroom training and representation, health care, and retirement [can’t be beat],” said Chad.
So naturally, Chad told his brothers about it, and they too joined him at WECA – one after the other. Since then, he’s had the privilege of training at WECA with his second-oldest brother, Lance, and watched the rest of the brothers come into their own at WECA.
While at WECA, Chad chose to pursue a commercial apprenticeship because he “had an interest in larger-scale buildings and how the electrical system supported the building’s electrical needs,” said Chad.
Through the apprenticeship, Chad came to love motor controls and PLCs, stating that “it gave me good entry-level knowledge and understanding on how controls and communications networks work … there’s no better feeling than completing a project and watching it come to life.”
Chad completed his apprenticeship training in 2012 but maintains strong ties to WECA through fond memories and the continued presence of his younger brother, Skylar.
To current and future apprentices, Chad said, “don’t cheat yourself, pay attention inside and outside the classroom, and knowledge is power.”
But most of all, Chad implored that a successful apprentice should practice good time management, strive for quality craftsmanship, and above all – give and command respect.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are most electrical projects, according to Lance Robbins.
Robbins, the second-oldest of the Grissom brothers, maintains that electrical work “takes a lot of patience and forethought” but enjoys the challenge.
He started his commercial apprenticeship with WECA in 2008, just a year after his older brother, Chad.
Lance fondly remembered his time at WECA, stating that “WECA had a lot of great instructors, but if I had to pick one it would have to be Rick Labon.”
“Rick was always real honest and straight up with us,” said Lance. “He always had good examples and stories from his previous experience.”
And now, it’s Lance’s turn to share his previous WECA experience with current and future apprentices alike.
“Be dependable and reliable,” said Lance. “I have run into a lot of people that are always late or missing work, and a lot that you can’t depend on to get a job done because they just don’t care or are not taking it as seriously as they should.”
For Tommy Grissom, choosing WECA for his commercial apprenticeship was a no-brainer.
“I was told it was the best apprenticeship in California. After working with co-workers from different apprenticeships, I agree,” said Tommy.
So, what exactly deems WECA’s commercial apprenticeship program the best in California, according to Tommy?
“WECA will not let companies underpay you, helps you find a job if you get laid off, offers full benefits with low co-pays, retirement, and pretty much takes you under their wing for the whole 5 years you are in the apprenticeship,” said Tommy.
Further elaborating, Tommy also stated that “when you graduate, you owe nothing – colleges don’t give you benefits or keep you working while learning. WECA gives you the security that colleges can’t.”
Though Tommy chose to pursue a commercial apprenticeship largely thanks to the influence of his older brother, Chad, he also cited liking “the bigger jobs that keep you in one place longer” and feeling “like you if you can do commercial you can do it all” as reasons for choosing the commercial apprenticeship over the others.
At WECA, he has enjoyed learning theory and learning about how equipment such as relays and plc’s work. Another highlight of his time at WECA has been learning the trade from instructor Keith Smart.
“He makes learning fun,” said Tommy, “and applies real on-the-job scenarios to the curriculum.”
Tommy is set to finish his commercial apprenticeship this year, and as such, is ready to dispense advice to current and future students.
“Even if it’s rough taking 2 weeks off for school every class, if you stick through it you will be better off in the long run,” said Tommy. “Once you have your journeyman card you can make good money anywhere you go.”
He further advises students to not take the easy way out, stating “do not just try to pass, ask questions and actually understand the material so you can apply it out in the field and make yourself valuable to any company you work for. No company wants someone who just has a journeyman card without the knowledge,” Tommy said.
“It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re flying with pigeons.”
Sometimes wisdom can be found in and applied to unexpected places and situations.
With Michael Grissom, he uses it to imply that a WECA apprenticeship is superior to a traditional college education.
“Both have benefits, but not having to pay and being able to work in a field as you learn is a huge benefit,” said Michael.
If that’s not a ringing endorsement, we’re not sure what is.
Grissom, the fourth brother in the prolific Grissom apprentice family, started his journey in WECA’s Riverside commercial apprenticeship program in 2016. During his time in the program, Michael has found that his favorite thing to do is "cutting threading and bending rigid." But he also enjoys “the thinking involved in programmable logic controllers”.
Though he’s still navigating his apprenticeship journey, Michael’s ready to dole out some advice – in the form of tough love – for his fellow apprentices.
“At work, shut up and listen – and in class, same thing. Better to miss an answer or two and learn it in review, rather than copy and struggle on the tests. You’re there to learn, not to copy,” said Michael.
For Tyson Grissom, WECA isn’t the place to blend in. It’s a place to stand out and actively work on bettering yourself.
“Be curious, ask questions, be confident in yourself, listen more than you talk, and always try to be better,” said Tyson.
The second-youngest of the Grissom brothers, Tyson began his commercial apprenticeship training at WECA in 2016. The opportune timing has allowed him to take classes alongside Tommy, Michael and Skylar.
And like to his brothers, Tyson indicated that a commercial apprenticeship allowed for more opportunities and growth, as well as the ability to collect better pay and benefits, get steady work, and rest assured that WECA has his back.
His opinion is that a WECA apprenticeship offers more tangible benefits than a traditional college education.
“We earn money and learn on the job so we can get real experience,” said Tyson.
What most people don’t know about the electrical trade is that it can take you to places that are otherwise inaccessible to the general public.
The latter is particularly true in Skylar Grissom’s case.
Through his apprenticeship, Skylar – the youngest of the Grissom brothers – had the opportunity to work on a job site located at Edwards Air Force Base, located in rural Kern County about 22 miles northeast of Lancaster.
“Edwards Air Force Base is my favorite thing I’ve done in my apprenticeship, [by far],” said Skylar. “I learned so much and saw new things.”
When not apprenticing on cool job sites, Skylar dedicates himself to continually learning and trying new things.
“I enjoy trying new things almost every day so I can learn new things, and [learn] a lot of tips and tricks to work hard,” said Skylar.
Though he started his commercial apprenticeship in 2018, Skylar has already gleaned some invaluable insight for apprentices.
“Listen to people on the job,” said Skylar. “Show that you want to learn but be safe.”
And moving forward, Skylar is most looking forward to a near-universally appreciated aspect and benefit of apprenticeship training with WECA.
“One huge advantage is being able to work and learn, and not having to pay out of pocket,” said Skylar.