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Paul Vance

Paul Vance

Apprentice, IBEW Local 3

About This Section

Click on the questions below to learn more about Paul’s experiences in the white-and-blue collar workforces in a question-and-answer format.

What originally got you into the Local 3 union?

I ended up, before I graduated, just filling out the bare minimum application for the local 3, and right when I started feeling this way. I always fantasized about working in film, in the electrical portion of it, doing the lighting.

I ended up getting a call from the local, and my application went through and they accepted me. It was at least two or three years. I could have waited a hell of a lot longer to hear back from them. I filled that thing out and completely forgot about it. It’s a lottery for the most part, to get accepted into the Local 3.

How did your parents react to this switch? Was it the right choice, in your opinion?

My parents are, in general, super supportive of whatever I do. They were super enthusiastic about me doing this. For the most part, as long as the union holds it together, it’s a lifelong career. You’re pretty set, for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy. It is not the easiest thing to wake up the earliest you possibly can, go to a filthy job. It’s definitely not for everyone. That’s why they have these long apprenticeships. They want to make sure you’re invested in it, because they’re invested in you.

What could you tell a reader that might be important to know about being an electrician, joining a union, or making a similar career switch?

Nothing is permanent. You can always give it a try, and if you don’t like it, you can stop doing it. These guys are some of the smartest guys I know. Some of these guys are like doctor-level scientists. You’re working with electricity, which is all based around theory. This is like this untamed beast, for the most part. It can come up and bite you when you’re least expecting it. You’re working with this super powerful element. Even for carpenters and woodworkers, all of the math that goes into that work, these things go unnoticed for a reason. It’s because these guys are really good about their job.

Are you happy with the change in careers?

I’m in a good place right now. It’s super fulfilling. You work your ass off and you’re doing things that people are terrified of doing. You’re seeing things which you’ll be the only person to see. You have a great thing to fall back on; this isn’t necessarily permanent for everyone. It can be. Eventually I’ll be getting paid full rate and things will be great. No regrets for sure.

Learn More

Click one of the blurbs below to learn more about the project


Read the stories of the white collar workers trading in their dress shoes for work boots.


Watch as the men and women of former white collar industries working in their new blue collar fields.


Listen to the stories of the white collar workers as to why they are trading in their dress shoes for work boots.


Learn more about the story, the reporting and its author.