Myshelle, 24, was born in Jacksonville and raised in Bostwick, Florida. She completed the seven-month Electrical Applications program at Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville in March 2023.
Thanks for your time, Myshelle. What did you do before coming to Tulsa Welding School?
I worked at Lowe’s for about two years before I started the Electrical program, and before that I worked at a company called Carlisle that made airplane wires.
Where did the idea of going to Electrician school come from?
I’d been trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career for years. I lived with my aunt and uncle in Daytona at the time. My Uncle James had an electrical book called the Fundamentals of Electricity, and I started reading it. I love reading books. It made me realize all the things I liked about electrical stuff, even from when I was younger watching my Pawpaw working on CB radios in his shed. I’d even taken an engineering class in high school which was all about science and electrical. That really should have told me that I like this kind of stuff!
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Your Pawpaw is your grandpa, right?
Yes, Pawpaw and my granny raised me in Bostwick, Florida. I grew up watching him work on electrical things out in his shed. He actually worked for the school board fixing radios, TVs, stuff like that, but by the time I was old enough to understand what he was doing, he had already retired. Pawpaw is the person that I looked up to growing up. He was a big inspiration to me. I lost him four years ago. I think he was the true inspiration behind this career choice.
Besides seeing your Pawpaw fixing gadgets, are there any electricians in the family?
No, nobody. But Uncle James, who I lived with, is a carpenter, as is my other uncle. So, I was around the trades a lot—people who worked in new construction with electricians.
So, you had to move back up to Jacksonville from Daytona, to go to electrical school?
I ended up moving in with my grandmother who lives in St. Augustine, which is only about 45 minutes to an hour away from the school. I commuted every day from there.
Did you do the morning or evening class?
I have ADHD, so I did evening class because I focus better in the evenings; I always function better at night.
Did you have a job during the day?
I transferred from the Lowe’s in Ormond Beach to the Lowe’s in St. Augustine until about September when I started working as an electrician apprentice during the day.
What did you enjoy most about your time at TWS?
I enjoyed that it was hands-on. We got to actually work with wires, wiring things up. I learn more hands-on than I do from books. It was easy for me because of the way I like to learn. All you have to do is show me how to do something once or twice, and I’ll have it down pat to where I can do it with no issues.
Interesting. Even though you love books and reading, that’s not the way you learn best?
It isn’t my strong suit, no. I also have a learning disability called Writing Expression Disorder. It makes it harder for me to learn from books. It has to do with understanding text or the way somebody says something to me. Sometimes I have to get people to reword how they said something in order for me to understand.
So, tell us more about the electrical apprentice job you got in school. How did you get it?
Funnily enough, I’d gone to Sally’s Beauty Supply to get some new shampoo and conditioner! Somebody working there actually knew somebody working at an electrical company called BE Electric. I’d mentioned in conversation that I was looking for electrical jobs, so they gave me the contact information to call them. When I called, I actually got to go in for the interview that day and I got hired there and then.
The things that can happen when you talk to people! Are you still working with them now?
I am still with BE Electric, but I am looking to switch companies because I want to move to Mount Airy, North Carolina, to live with my twin sister. I am currently off work on Workers’ Comp because I got injured. I stepped off a ladder and badly sprained my ankle. That was five weeks ago and I’m on light duty now, but in the electrician field there is no light duty. I’m still out on disability. I have a doctor’s appointment next week to find out if I’m going to be taken off light duty, or if they’re going to continue it because I still have to go to physical therapy. Once I’m done with all that, I’m going to look for openings in the electrician field up here in NC. I’m here visiting right now.
Get well soon! So, you can switch jobs during your apprenticeship?
You can; you don’t have to stay with the same company. As long as you can show proof of two years working in the field after school, you can use that proof to get your Journeyman license. It’s typically a four-year deal to get your Journeyman’s, but with how they have it set up, by attending Tulsa Welding School, you gain two years just from attending the school.
Completing a seven-month EA program counts as two years served on an apprenticeship, that’s cool! Did the company encourage you to continue with school?
Yes, they were very encouraging. My boss always asked me about my grades. Anytime I had a midterm or an exam on a day that I was working, my boss let me leave earlier than normal so that I could be on time for the test or to study a little before the test, so that I was fully prepared.
You’re just starting out. What’s your career plan from here?
My first goal is to get my Journeyman’s license within the next couple of years, then I want to go on and get my Master’s license, and then start my own business. From what I understand, you have to have a total of six years’ experience in order to get your Master’s license. You have to have your Journeyman’s for at least two years before you can go on to get the Master’s.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
What I like most is the fact that I don’t have to take a full 30-minute or hour break while working. I can just eat my lunch and get back to work, or I don’t have to sit down and stop at all. I can just continue being up, moving the entire time while I’m working. I’m just constantly moving and doing stuff. That’s what I enjoy because it helps with my ADHD. If I stop moving, it takes me a long time to get focused again. Once I stop, it knocks me out of the hyperfocus that I get working. It takes a long time to get that focus back.
Did you make some connections at school, people you want to stay in touch with?
I am still in touch with one of my teachers. He’s actually rewriting my résumé for me, so I can find another job in NC. I made some friends as well. The one that I really still keep in contact with is actually in the HVAC field.
What advice would you give to those considering Tulsa Welding School for electrical classes?
My advice is to study the Codebook a lot in your own time. The Codebook is the most important piece you need to know to be able to take the test for the Journeyman’s license down the road.
Does the school give you that Codebook?
They give you the Codebook and all the books you need, as well an entire bag full of basic tools that you will need to do the job. They give you everything but the battery-operated tools. So, I would also advise that you get an impact driver and a hammer drill. Those are the two basic battery-operated tools that you will need to start any electrical job that don’t come in the bag of tools you’ll get from school.
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program, and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).