Author: Jordyn Ritsema

From Athlete to College Student to Electrician

I have been an electrician for nearly 26 years. 

Like many high schoolers, when I began my highschool journey, I had no idea what I wanted to do professionally. At that point, my passions were: 1) Play sports. 2) Make friends. 3) Have a good time. I excelled in all three areas. My focus was in the moment-–not on my future career.

After graduating high school, I knew that I loved teaching and sports, so my desire was to become a school teacher and coach. I ended up attending our local community college. A funny thing happens when you start paying for your classes. They begin to really matter. My focus shifted from just the moment to taking my future seriously.

Then…there she was. This bright eyed, freckle-faced girl in my speech class. Life sure can come at you fast! Long story short, she is now my wife and my best friend. Together, we have three great kids. My desire to be married to Jen was far greater than my desire to be a teacher. After two years of school, I charted a new career path:

That of an electrician.

I went into this industry knowing nothing about it. Turns out, it fit me like a glove, giving me everything I desired from teaching or coaching. This job challenged me both physically and mentally. The journeyman-to-apprentice relationship has allowed me to learn and to teach on a daily basis. The teamwork required in this job is like that of athletics. Goal lines are now replaced with deadlines. It has been an amazing journey!

The Tech Center offers students hands-on experiences in different career paths. Not only are they getting relevant practical life skills—like how to replace a toilet—they are given the opportunity to co-op in a specific trade: Work on real jobs with real professionals, getting paid real money!

I had a fantastic college experience and got tools that have been influential in my professional career. But ultimately, it was not a path that led me to my career. I frequently get the opportunity to speak to students about the skilled trades. I like to start by telling them that going off to college is a great idea if you really know what you want to pursue for a career. We need doctors, lawyers, accountants, and teachers every bit as much as we need electricians, technicians, plumbers and hygienists.

However, if your story is anything like mine, remember all the options out there. Coming out of college with a degree and a large loan is a reality that 17 to 18 year olds need to consider. If you have a dream and a passion, go get it! If you’re unsure, you could go to college, kick the tires and see if it is right for you. Many people do this and walk away with thousands of dollars in debt and an uncertain future. If you want to kick some tires…Consider a skilled trade. At the very least, you learn a craft you will be able to use the rest of your life and you walk away with money in your pocket. At best, you could find out what I did: A career in skilled trades was much more lucrative and rewarding than I could ever have imagined.