Erin Lakenen works full time at B&B Electric Inc. in Iron Mountain, Michigan. At just 22, the third-year apprentice electrician already owns her own home, and is an example of the benefits available to young women who pursue career opportunities in the skilled trades.
Apprenticeship as a career path was a natural fit for the Marquette native.
“I’ve always been a little less traditional, and going to college full time didn’t really appeal to me. In apprenticeship, you are going to school and getting paid while learning a skill that you can use for the rest of your life,” said Erin. “I saw my sister going into debt with student loans for college and it really scared me. I love learning on the job.”
Erin has learned different methods of electrical installation in the industrial, commercial, and residential electrical industries, and she loves every minute of it.
“The trade has truly helped shape me into what I am today; it has increased my work ethic as well as given me financial stability and security, which leads to a lot more freedom and comfort,” explained Erin. “I just recently purchased a new home and I know that would have never happened at such a young age without the trades.”
She also enjoys participating in career fairs and trade conferences to help other women see that opportunities for good-paying jobs are available to everyone.
“I am proud to represent women in a nontraditional workplace and show that there are no barriers women cannot overcome in the trades,” Erin said.
The five-year electrical apprenticeship run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 906 includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 1,000 hours of instructional learning. After completing the program and passing a state electrical exam, Erin will receive an industry-issued, nationally recognized journeyman certificate. Electricians in Michigan can expect to earn about $57,000 per year on average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are more than 500,000 apprenticeships across the country, with more opportunities added every day. Find a program or learn how to sponsor one at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Editor’s note: Erin's story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.
Scott Allen is Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in Chicago.