I have been in the Electrical trade for over 32 years and I have had the fortunate experience of learning from a number of skilled electricians during my four year apprenticeship. I started in a company that had a large crew, and I would have to say that the most significant journeyman I worked under was Craig.
The first day I met Craig on the job we were getting ready to start our task for the day, John, the foreman, stopped by and asked Craig “where is Sponge?” Craig said he was on another job. John turned and said that Craig’s apprentice was nicknamed Sponge. John then told the story of how that came to be.
Apparently, Craig showed up on one of John’s previous projects along with Sponge and when they were assigned their task, Craig said, “Lets move out Sponge.”
John said, “What did you call him? Sponge?”
Craig replied “yes,” and then said to Sponge, “Tell him what you are.”
Sponge, who was really close to testing for his license at this point and had almost four years in the trade, said, “C’mon Craig, do I have to?”
Craig repeated the statement, “Tell him what you are!”
Sponge replied in a monotone response but nonetheless, well practiced, “ I am a Sponge.”
Craig asked “What do you do?”
Again Sponge said, “C’mon Craig, do we really have to?””
Craig raised his voice, “Tell him what you do.”
Sponge, back to the monotone response, “I soak up knowledge.”
To which Craig asked him, “And what are you?”
Sponge, “I am the luckiest apprentice on the face of the earth, perhaps, (Craig insists on the dramatic pause) the entire universe.”
Thirty two years later, I think of this often. I was very green when I first started and when John and Craig would talk, it was all electrician jargon. I didn’t know what they were saying and told Craig so. Craig told me to come to work a half hour early every day. Each night he would assign me the task of studying from the National Electrical Code definitions.
“We start work at 7am, you will arrive at 6:30. I will test you on the terms and if you’re wrong, you owe me (again with Craig’s dramatic pause) a dollar. At the end of the week, we will take the dollars and go to the supply house. You will then purchase a tool as this is an investment in your career and your trade.”
This tactic may not be favorable in today’s standards of Human Resources; I was not getting paid to arrive early every morning. However, neither was Craig. He took the time and the effort and most importantly, the interest, in making sure the next generation of electricians were learning effectively.
To this day when I am asked, “who was the best electrician you ever worked with?” The question is quickly and easily answered “Craig”