Jonathan Cook, 2019 Residential and Commercial Electrician Graduate
Electrician Apprentice at Island Lighting & Power Systems
The years when Jonathan returned to civilian life, after having served in the military, were not the easiest. When he moved back to Massachusetts to be closer to family, he met and fell in love with Alyssa, an MTTI Marine Service Technician graduate. She encouraged Jonathan to go back into the trades and to train as an Electrician. Alyssa says, “I had a great experience at MTTI. I did not want Jonathan to feel obligated to enroll simply because of my experience. He researched and met with staff, and he felt MTTI was a great fit for him. Now he is doing the type of work he really enjoys. I think for both of us, MTTI was that first step toward something so much bigger than either of us imagined!” Busy pursuing careers they love, in March 2020 they will take their next big step—they are getting married!
After High School, I was at loose ends and at risk of getting into trouble.
I needed structure and discipline to re-set my mind. Basic training in the Army was grueling physically and mentally, but it gave me a clear mind. The focus on tasks and missions felt like a good fit. Many years later, I can appreciate that the mental clarity and focus I learned in the military serves me well as an Electrician Apprentice. Back then though, I was not thinking about an Electrician career.
Serving in the military for 8+ years, I was deployed multiple times to Iraq.
After completing basic training at Fort Knox, I was stationed for a couple of years in Germany. I was moved to Fort Riley, Kansas; from there I was sent to Iraq. My first tour was scary—not knowing what to expect. After that, I felt uneasy when I went over, but was bolstered by knowing that I had a mission. I liked military life and being part of a unit that was like a well-oiled machine. I re-enlisted before my initial contract was up in preference to being called back in after I got out. I made friends and enjoyed camaraderie; being in the Army felt like I was part of a family.
After being Honorably Discharged, I lived for a few years in Florida.
Re-adjusting to civilian life was stressful. I coped with memories from the tours in Iraq. I earned an Associate’s Degree online—but it didn’t lead to a career. I was hired as a flooring installation laborer and worked my way up to specialist. Wanting to be close to family, I moved back to Plymouth, Massachusetts.
I started my own business installing flooring, subcontracting under others.
Being my own boss was great, but during the winter in New England, the work dries up. People don’t appreciate having you tracking snow and mud through their homes, onto their new floors. I found a job at the place where I had worked while growing up. An Agway agriculture supply store when I was young, coming back it was now Morrison’s Home and Garden. I maintained the receiving, shipping and warehouse operations. After 6 months, I was promoted to Assistant Manager.
I worked outdoors most of the time; I loved my job and was feeling more at home.
After a few years though, I felt I had peaked—there was no room for growth. I appreciated the opportunity this job afforded me, but I wanted more. After I chose to go back to school, Morry, Jeff, and the rest of Morrison’s staff supported my decision.
By then I had met and had fallen in love with Alyssa.
An MTTI grad, Alyssa has been working in the boating industry since she graduated in 2015 from the Marine Service Technician program. Alyssa recognized my drive to do more. She said, ‘You really should go back into the trades.’ I had always been a little fascinated with the work electricians do. I like using my hands and being outdoors. I had dabbled with running wire and putting in lights—small things. Alyssa suggested I consider training as an electrician—and she recommended MTTI.
I was a little nervous coming into the Electrician program.
I didn’t know if I could succeed in this industry—or whether I would even like it. Alyssa supported me unconditionally; she said, ‘It doesn’t matter what you do for a job. If you are not happy with the program, you can always go back to Morrison’s. I’ll always be there for you.’
MTTI’s electrician program went more in depth than I expected.
Throughout the program we practiced finding keywords in the National Electrical Code book, to prepare us to navigate the Code book when eventually we take the licensing exam. The hands-on portion is huge. I’m a visual person; when I see something being done once, I can do it. Learning which tools you need to use for specific jobs, and how to use those tools the correct way, has been important to my success.
We had a whole-house module with bedrooms, living and dining rooms, bathroom, utility room and kitchen.
Students served as foremen for projects. We had crews that started projects by hanging boxes. Another crew hung fixtures in the ceilings for lights. Everyone ran wire throughout the house. We also practiced pipe bending for both residential and commercial work. Outdoors on the roof, we removed solar panels to see how they ran in series.
Being part of a crew recalled the camaraderie I had enjoyed in the Army.
Although less intense than being in an Army Unit, my classmates and I worked together as a team to learn everything. When someone understood something a little better, they would help the others. Similarly to how we operated in the Army, we had each other’s back.
Going into internship I was nervous—as I might be on any new job.
My instructor, Jason, referred me to Island Lighting and Power Systems. Shawn, the Career Services Specialist for the program, reached out to Scott, the Shop Manager, on my behalf. When I interviewed at Island Lighting and Power Systems, they weren’t sure about taking on a third apprentice—they had already hired a graduate from the class before mine, and one of my classmates.
I appreciate that Island Lighting gave me a shot; I feel fortunate that it is working out well.
I get up early in the morning—3 or 4 am—and think, ‘This is fun! I want to go to work.’ I’ve been working with Musco Lighting, on football and soccer fields, traveling all over the state and beyond: Amherst, Gardner, Hull, Scituate, Boston –-to UCONN and to Manchester, NH. I’ve pulled a lot of wire, installed conduit in the ground, and terminated wires at Musco poles.
The electrician trade is a growing field with lots of opportunity.
Technology is evolving every year. There is so much electrical work out there; Island Lighting and Power Systems has had to subcontract out some of the work. You can take different pathways in the electrical field. We have guys who are linemen, or who handle drilling rigs and cranes. We have Master Electricians, Journeymen and Apprentices.
It’s exciting that I don’t always know where I will be working the next day.
I’m sent to different places and diverse types of jobs. The Licensed guys play a big role in helping me learn on the job. I ask good questions; when they see that I want to learn, they are patient in showing me what they are doing. They want to share their knowledge. Some want to show you their way of doing the work, so it will look neat and clean when it is inspected—which makes us all look good.
I have benefitted from getting my electrical education at MTTI.
Some apprentices have to attend classes for four years at night, while working days. By going to school, I have fulfilled the educational requirement. My goal is to keep on the path—get my Journeyman license and keep going forward. I have my apprentice card now. I’ll earn about 2,000 hours each year of the 8,000 hours required to sit for the licensing exam. You move up in steps—for every 1,000 hours your work during 6 months, you move up a tier. It’s a process—but well worth it.
I thought I might be too old at 38 to start a new career.
I believe now that you are never too old. It feels great knowing that, as long as I maintain the hours and keep on learning, I will be advancing. I finally feel like I am going in the right direction.
I highly recommend MTTI.
A lot of people are ‘book smart’; I am not. The environment at MTTI is designed to enable you to learn. It is an intense program—but a comfortable environment in the way that they teach you. The Instructors are encouraging—they want to pass their knowledge to you.
I feel relieved knowing that I have made decisions I am happy with.
For a long time, it felt like my life was a puzzle with missing pieces. I don’t talk much about the tours I did in Iraq, but I haven’t forgotten the things I saw. For a long time after returning to the states, I grappled with hearing loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): chronic headaches and recurrent nightmares—the bad dreams were the worst.
I’m putting the pieces of my life back together—new and happier pieces.
I had a great experience in MTTI’s Electrician program. I have a new job and career that I love. Alyssa and I are making a wonderful life together. The unexpected gift is that, these life choices make me happy—I am extremely happy. The bad dreams and headaches I suffered due to PTSD have significantly decreased. Maybe you are struggling to put your life together again. If so, my experience is that happiness is healing. You have every reason to have hope.