Like many seniors, Wesley Norwood had no clue what he wanted to do after high school. So the West Feliciana graduate attended the school of life for a while.
At first, the Tunica native worked at nearby Angola, the state penitentiary. That wasn’t his thing. So he became an electrician’s helper.
“Electrician’s helpers work with journeyman electricians, carrying tools and watching and paying attention so they can learn,” Norwood explains. “All I knew about electricity at that point was to stay away from it.”
Eventually, Norwood ended up as an electrician’s helper at Triad Electric and Controls in Port Allen. Triad is a Louisiana contractor that does electrical work in big plants and helps build new industrial projects. That was a lucky move, because Triad offered to pay for Norwood to go to school for further training.
For the next two years, while continuing to work at Triad during the day, Norwood took night classes at the Pelican Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors in Baton Rouge (abcpelican.org). ABC trains students to be skilled craftsman in electrical, carpentry, heavy equipment and crane operator, millwright, pipefitting, plumbing and instrumentation.
“I went from knowing a little about a lot to knowing a lot about a lot,” Norwood says. He has continued to take courses and moved up from being an electrician’s helper to being an A-class journeyman electrician, the most advanced skill level. He is now working toward his certification in instrumentation.
“I love my job,” Norwood says. “I like the hands-on. I like to be moving around and seeing how things work. I like knowing that I made those lights came on or those computers work or those pumps work.”
And the pay doesn’t stink—it’s about $29 an hour.
“I am able to live comfortably,” he says, “And that is saying a lot for someone who is 25 and married with one kid and a baby on the way.”
He encourages anyone with an interest in skilled or industrial crafts to get formal training.
“School just fills in the blanks that you don’t learn in the field.”