Graduate Connections – Meet Tim Higley

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Tim, 38, was born and raised in Jacksonville, but spent some time in Annapolis, MD, and Washington State. Tim graduated from the Electrical-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program in March 2018 before taking additional classes to complete the Electrical Applications (EA) program in June 2018 at the Tulsa Welding School, Jacksonville campus.

Thanks for your time, Tim. How come you completed the two programs?

I started on the EMT program, but many of the classes cross over with the EA program. After I graduated, I figured it would only be another three months, so I might as well take the additional classes to complete the EA program and leave school with two diplomas and more opportunities. In the time that I was at Tulsa, I received two diplomas and four certifications, all within a year.

Which side did you enjoy more?

I enjoyed the electrical portion of it more than the HVAC, due to having experience working on car audio since I was a teen. They both have their advantages, though.

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Was this a career change for you?

A complete change. I’ve had many different jobs over the years including security, which I’ve been doing for the past few years, but I’d never worked in these fields.

So lots of jobs, but no career?

I had what I thought would be a career in my early 20s. I was a medical assistant. I went to school for that as well, but I was laid off after working for the Department of Health for five years.

What made you choose the electrical/HVAC field?

My grandfather was a master electrician and ran his own company in the Northeast. I’m kind of following in his footsteps. Besides that, the pay in both HVAC and electrical is really good, and I wanted a career that was “recession-proof” because I’ve been laid off a few times. I like the fact that if, for whatever reason, I leave a job, I’m going to be able to find another one rather quickly. I don’t like being out of work.

What was your favorite part about your time at Tulsa?

My favorite part was the people that I was in class with and being able to interact with them for a common goal. The instructors were also really helpful. Any time I had an issue with something, they were there to guide me through. I have the knowledge necessary to complete my tasks on the job now.Tim Higley

What were your classmates like?

The age range was diverse, from kids who had just come out of high school to Herb Ruffins, who was in his 60s. It was a very diverse group. There were a couple of kids who took the program because they thought it would be easy. However, one of the young guys, Malik, was on point. He was there every day, always in his books. He never went out on breaks, he was just on it. He really wanted to get into the field and make something out of it. Age isn’t really an issue, it’s your attitude that counts.

Who do you work for?

I work for Radiant Electric in Jacksonville. I’m in my second week with the company. One of my instructors, Robert Padgett, referred me to Robert Sage in the Career Services team for the open position with Radiant.

What’s your career plan from here?

My long-term goal is to ultimately become a master electrician myself. I’ll still be able to do some HVAC work with Radiant because the projects they take on are mainly new construction for commercial, light industrial and residential. I’m learning from the ground up.

Is there a path to master electrician with Radiant?

Yes. I’m just a helper for the first 90 days. After that, they’re going to put me into an apprenticeship program. Based on the knowledge I received at Tulsa and how well I do on the placement test for the apprenticeship program, it will cut a year or two off the time I’ll need in the field to become a journeyman. Then I’ll have to work in the field for another couple of years before I can take the master electrician examination.

What do you enjoy most about your new trade?

The hours! I’m so tired of working overnight and weekends, not being able to get time off for social activities. I’m working 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday now. The group of guys I’m working with are really helpful. They understand that I don’t have any field experience, so they give me a project, show me what they want done with it and pretty much leave me to it from there. There’s a little bit of working with others, but mainly I’ve been working on my own since I’ve been here because they are confident in the skills I possess because of my schooling.

Are you happy with the choice you made to change careers?

When I first got out of school, I started to get discouraged because I had a couple of bad interviews not having any field experience, but now that I’m working and getting to know the job hands-on, I can see myself being very happy in it.

What advice would you give to students considering the electrical and/or HVAC programs at TWS?

It’s not something you just pay for and get a diploma. You definitely have to put in your time. The more you’re willing to put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it. If you miss a day, you’ll miss more than a day’s worth of knowledge.

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). 

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