Phoenix electrician school grad looks forward to a long career as a journeyman

By KJZZ News
Published: Thursday, May 25, 2023 - 12:14pm

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Graduation season is upon us — from preschool to Ph.Ds, lots of people are moving to the next chapter of their lives. In honor of that, The Show is turning the mic over to some of the most interesting grads in the Valley.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 640 has been representing journeyman wiremen and electrical workers since 1925. The path to a career in the region’s electrical industry begins at the Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Center — the JATC, where the completion of five years of course work is required for membership in the IBEW.

Sam Cook, a lifelong Valley resident, is graduating as a journeyman wireman from the Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Center program next month, and he’s looking forward to a long and fruitful career.

Sam Cook leaning against a railing.
Sam Cook
Sam Cook

I came to the program at the JATC in kind of a roundabout way — my father worked for one of the contractors in the union, and I had bounced around from job to job before I joined. And they seemed kind of dead-end and I had been managing at some of the places so I had management experience so I quit this other place that kind of ended abruptly. And I just thought it was going to be a summer job — material handling — so just pushing parts around the job site, getting parts for people when they needed them.

Once I joined the company and started working on job sites, the guys there convinced me to join the school.

The four-year program did seem like, "Aw, man — it’s gonna take a long time to get through, I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to do this." Just out of high school, I went to community college thinking that I was going to do music production and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. So the last taste of schooling I had wasn’t what I expected.

So definitely in the beginning, I was like, “I hope I can do this.” But they really walk you through it and it’s been pretty easy, I’m not going to lie. Half the battle is just showing up. Intensity of the work, though — yeah, you do have to apply yourself.  There is a lot of things that you need to study — you actually have to read the books. The teachers are there to help you — but a lot of the stuff, you actually have to step forward and take the bull by the horns and actually learn it, you know?

What’s next is a big weight off my shoulders that’s been there for the last four years. I think there’s a lot of stress that comes with wrapping up a program like this and not knowing what’s next. I know that management is in my future, I know that I want to have a crew of my own and be able to become a leader in the industry — build connections with not only people within the company but with general contractors, supply houses.

I have seen a lot of the relationships that my dad has built because he was in the industry for thirty plus years — it’s not something that happens overnight, it's something that I’ll definitely be building on for the next 25, 30 years until I retire. But it’s definitely a relief that it’s nearly over.

I’ve really come full circle from the beginning of the uncertainty of, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” Being green on the job site is a scary thing almost and now, when I walk onto the job site every day, I know what I’m doing and I know that any task that I’m given I’m going to be able to complete and work through. So there is some satisfaction, for sure.  Being able to know that you can handle anything that’s thrown at you.

My father’s response to graduating is — he keeps trying to take me out to dinner and stuff — I keep telling him that it’s too early. I want to have the graduation and the journeyman’s ticket in my pocket before I celebrate. He wants to celebrate, but I’m not letting him just yet.

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