David Arnold, Jr.
2020 Residential and Commercial Electrician Graduate
Gold Award for Excellence in Academics, Shop Skills & Attendance
Fire Alarm Apprentice at Encore Fire Protection in Pawtucket, RI
I knew I didn’t want a career in which I would be stuck behind a desk.
I enjoyed studying video editing at a community college, but felt my body needed to be moving. Meeting my girlfriend made me want to better my life for us, so we could have a more financially secure future. Knowing that the people in my family thrive in the trades, I thought I might also find a sense of accomplishment working with my hands.
My Dad’s sudden passing last year kicked me into overdrive to train for a career.
I first thought about attending MTTI’s Building Trades program to learn carpentry. My grandfather had been in the trades all of his life. Even as early as five years old, he had me and my cousin pick up a hammer to hammer nails. Feeling it would be a better fit for me, I chose to enroll in the Residential and Commercial Electrician program.
The first time I wired a switch to a lightbulb, my ‘mental lightbulb’ lit up.
When I flipped the switch, it literally turned on the light for me. Having that wiring project work left no shadow of a doubt that I had made the right decision. Every school day, I was the first person in the parking lot. I wanted to get the schoolwork done, because I was excited to start working at my new electrical career.
I’m not always the fastest at problem solving.
My instructor had an excellent teaching style; he was encouraging, but wouldn’t hand us the answer. He would say: ‘You know this. Just take a deep breath, walk away for a minute and come back to it—you’ll know exactly what to do.’ Sometimes now on the job, I do the same thing. I’ll take a break from a task or work on something different. When I step away and stop overthinking, the approach or solution comes to me.
I especially enjoyed the residential portion of MTTI's program.
The instructors gave us an overview but also allowed us the freedom to do things our own way. Two people in the class were elected to act as foremen. Working in modules that had ‘rooms’ framed in, we wired the main service for a whole house, and also wired a bathroom. We followed the code book as we designed and installed electrical circuitry and components. When we did it right, we would pass; if we did it wrong, we’d do it again to make it right.
On my own, I applied for a position at Encore and had a video interview.
They didn’t have an open position at that time. A month later, a spot opened up. I heard Shawn, the Career Services Specialist for the Electrician program, talking to another student about Encore; I asked if he would set up an interview for me, too. Then I had an in-person interview with the VP and the person who later became my boss; completed a Background Check and also took a 15-minute aptitude (problem-solving) test.
On the 1st day scheduled for internship, I was filling out my employment paperwork.
I was already hired. I found I was well-prepared by the school program. Still, being on-the-job feels different. The schedule changes every day—it can throw you off. Having ‘nerves’ at the beginning can make you feel like you’ve forgotten what you were taught. Once I calmed down and got accustomed to the new routine, I was able to continue developing my skills set—building on what I had learned at school. I had the opportunity to use new tools and see different approaches to jobs. I’ve been melding these approaches to create my own way of working.
During COVID-19, I was grateful to be employed as an essential worker.
Fire alarms are important protection for people. Initially I was concerned about how contagious the virus is. We all wore gloves, but didn’t know, until we learned from studies, that the Coronavirus spreads through the air, via droplets when someone sneezes or even speaks. Now we all wear masks—it’s second nature for me to put one on each day. I like wearing the company scarf with the Encore brand on it. The company is very understanding—if we don’t feel comfortable where we are, we can call and they’ll let us leave. I’m not going to let fear stop me from making a living and doing a job that helps people.
I’m glad I came to the job with a knowledge of basic electricity.
If I had apprenticed without having completed the Residential and Commercial Electrician program, I wouldn’t have known the tricks to running wire or how to properly splice wire. I recently recommended MTTI to my cousin—he enrolled in the HVAC/R program.
MTTI helped me get a good start in a career.
By attending MTTI’s program, I got all of my school hours out of the way for the Journeyman’s licensing exam. Not having to go to school at night, feeling exhausted from the day’s work, I can just concentrate on accruing the work hours to qualify to take the exam. As an entry-level electrician, my salary and benefits are already better than what I had made at my previous jobs. Only months after graduating, I’ve rented an apartment and am getting a puppy. I enjoy feeling that, now that I have a career, I am living a fully ‘adult’ life.
During school, when we worked on fire alarms, I felt a professional connection to my Dad.
My Dad has been my hero all my life—that will never change. My father was a fire fighter in Narragansett, RI, his whole life—even before I was born, until his retirement a few years ago. I grew up in a fire house. When I was 5 years old, I told my Dad I wanted to be a firefighter like him. Knowing the hazards of the profession, my Dad said, ‘No’.
My Dad went above and beyond to make sure things were done right.
During my first months as an Electrical Apprentice, I met people who had worked with my father. The Fire Marshall told me how well-respected my dad was. A stickler about fire code, my Dad always wanted to be on-site when the installation of a new panel was completed. Once, someone didn’t call him to do a pre-test on a panel for a fire station, thinking 8 pm was too late to contact him. Afterwards, my father rebuked him saying, ‘You should have called me’. Recently I worked with that same guy.
I started the Electrician program at MTTI almost one year after Dad passed.
It finally ‘clicked’ for me. My Mom had told me that, despite the health effects of smoke and firefighting chemicals, Dad would never have traded a day--even if he had known what his outcome would be. As a fireman, he was grateful to have saved so many people’s lives. I feel the same way about becoming an electrician. By making sure fire systems are installed to code and operating correctly, I can help save people’s lives.