WECA Phoenix Commercial Apprentice Laura Varela, who works for founding Arizona member contractor Corbins Electric, says that “over the years, being a female in construction has become a normal thing. Since joining the trade in 2015, I have personally seen so many women join the trades; there is definitely no divide. We are all a team working together to get one goal done—and that is to finish the job.”
Varela—who first became interested in becoming an electrician while enrolled in her high school’s construction program—says that more women should think about working in the electrical field because “it is not as hard as it may seem. With the advancements in technology, tools that were once manually operated are now battery operated, which means that not as much strength is required anymore.”
During her time with WECA, Varela has appreciated being able to go to class for two weeks at a time and focusing on her studies. She credits WECA Phoenix’s Commercial Apprenticeship instructor and Apprenticeship Program Remote Manager Keith Smart with doing “a great job at teaching and making it [the instructional material] stick.”
For Varela, the experience has been rewarding in many ways.
“In our first year with WECA, we had the opportunity to practice wiring diagrams on a practice wiring board—that was very useful. I am a visual learner, so it was good being able to apply what we learn in the book to real life,” says Varela.
Additionally, for Varela, one of the most enjoyable aspects of being an electrician is the teamwork.
“Being able to work with individuals with different backgrounds that have a lot to teach [you] is awesome if you are trying to learn as much as you can,” says Varela.
Varela also notes that another enjoyable perk of being an electrician is that “the things that are taught in the trade can help with personal renovations on homes or landing side jobs down the line”, which can potentially result in saving money or netting extra cash.
Speaking of money—Varela says that women (and people in general) who are interested in becoming electricians need not to worry about money initially.
“My advice to anyone thinking of joining the trade would be to not worry about the money,” says Varela. “The money will come—and it will be good money. If they are ready to work hard and learn a lot, everything else will come with ease.”
Plus, Varela says that the pay “has definitely been very good while being an electrician; it is a good feeling to know that I am able to comfortably support my family.”
And the financial aspect does eventually work itself out in the end, with Varela further noting that “the major perks of an Apprenticeship with WECA, rather than a traditional college education, would be the cost. Apprenticeship tuition is paid for by the employing contractor; the phrase “earn while you learn” is a big part of the Apprenticeship program.”
We here at WECA feel that Varela’s future in the Arizona electrical industry is bright, and we are excited to see what she accomplishes during her time with WECA, as well after graduation. Varela notes that she has many options after graduation and has talked with WECA’s Workforce Development team about the potential paths she’ll take—like becoming a foreman, project engineer, or getting into virtual construction.
In the meantime, though, Varela’s set a wonderful example for female electrician hopefuls in Arizona, and encourages others to “work as hard as you can, learn as much as you can, and don’t compare yourself to others because your path is different from theirs.”