When Dakotah Quinn was 17, she moved in with her best friend and her friend’s husband—who was an electrical apprentice. While she knew nothing about the trades initially, financial independence has always been a priority for her.
“I didn’t want to have debt or go to college for some degree and then find out I hated it,” Quinn said. “I had nothing to lose doing the apprenticeship and the license gave me a way to pay for college if the trades didn’t work out.”
Now 26, Quinn is one of the youngest foremen at Merit Electric. The trades offer a pathway to the middle class and advancement opportunities in the construction industry. Many of Quinn’s opportunities at Merit Electric have come from good mentors and employer support.
“I feel very lucky that I worked for Merit Electric during my apprenticeship,” Quinn said. “My mentors were very invested in my future and have always given me the opportunity to take ownership of projects and advance my career.”
While the trades require a lot of hard work, Quinn said the rewards are unlike any other job she’s had. “The work conditions might be tough sometimes, but at the end of the day you have evidence of what you created,” Quinn said, “and there is a real sense of comradery when you come through a tough situation with your crew.”
One of the biggest misconceptions that Quinn wants to correct is that women are not welcome in the field or the trades are not a safe place for women. “I’ve been the only woman on almost all the jobs, but that is starting to change,” she said. “The men on the crews and the jobs will treat you like their sister or daughter and look out for you. I’ve always felt safe and like I was treated fairly.”
In all union trades, employees can spend their entire career working in the field, or take it in a different direction in supervising, estimating, as safety coordinator, or even starting your own business – a journeymen license is just the beginning.
“You can truly make a career at Merit Electric and in the trades,” Quinn said. “Even if you are mid- or late-career, your time as an apprentice goes fast and your wages scale while you are learning. Trades work is the least boring career you can have, in my opinion—new people, new jobs, new towns, it’s never the same.”
If you are thinking about a career in the union electrical trades, there are plenty of opportunities. For Quinn, who started as an 18-year-old high school graduate and is now a foreman running her own jobs and managing a crew of skilled workers, the trades have opened the door to financial independence, owning a home and having a job that never gets old.
Merit Electric has provided high quality electrical services to the Pacific Northwest since 1982.