BUILDING A CAREER:
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARC MEMBER LORD ANTWANE
In August 2016, ARC launched a 12-week training program, in partnership with Los Angeles Trade Technical College and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, that leads members directly into union apprenticeships in the building and construction trades. Below ARC Member Scott Conner interviews Lord Antwane, a graduate of the program's pilot cohort, who is now an electrician with IBEW Local 11.
What’s surprised you about the job?
That it never ends. (Laughs). But you know what? I enjoy it. I get my hands dirty. I get home beat up and tired from work and I enjoy it because I’m getting an honest paycheck. I put in an honest eight hours. It’s something I pat myself on the back about every day -- like man, I earn my paycheck and it’s a good living wage. You know sometimes I look back at seven months ago, where I was, in prison, versus today and it surprises me. Because life is so different -- that’s what surprises me right now.
Do your co-workers know about your background in the criminal justice system?
Some do, some don’t. I keep that sort of close to the chest. I don’t mix and match. You know, I am a convict, a felon, whatever you want to say. But that’s not all I am. I’m an Electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and that’s how I carry myself on the job. And they’ve treated me great. From the first day on the job I was a brother. I was an IBEW brother to them and that’s all that matters.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself as a journeyman electrician putting a down payment on my first house. That’s my goal. That’s what I’m working towards right now. I want to take this opportunity to put all the pieces together, to really succeed in life. That’s what I see myself doing – succeeding in the trade and getting ready for the remainder of my life. I have this great jumping start through this program.
So many times in my life all I wanted was that chance. It was this chance right here that broke the ceiling for me. I appreciate it because it’s a game-changer for me. When people see Lord, they don’t see Lord the convict anymore. They see a union guy. That’s all I wanted in life. I wanted to be a role model to people in my family and my community. And I just want to say thank you to ARC and everyone who made this possible for giving me that chance.
Why did you want to join ARC’s pre-apprenticeship program?
For me, it was a shot to do something positive, something that I knew was going to take me far in life as a career, and a chance to provide for my family. It was a chance to become a role model and the productive citizen I wanted to be coming out of prison.
What was your experience like in the program?
I loved it, man. It was hands on. I got to learn a lot. I learned some great tools and had some great help. The program started with a Life Coach teaching us basic life skills and refreshers on how to succeed in a career and be the best man for the job. Then, from there, we got hands-on experience on a job site and laying foundation work. It was all around a great experience. I went in there with a great group of guys and 20 of us graduated. We’re all going to become union members because of this program.
What is your current job?
I’m currently an electrician with Local 11. Right now, we’re doing a 700-unit apartment complex on Wilshire and Bixel. It’s a big job – I’m working with about 50 electricians – and I’m doing everything over there. I’m pulling wire. I’m seeing it all. My co-worker Thomas Reese – give him a shout-out. We’re both over here. We both graduated from the ARC program, and now we’re both succeeding.
How did you feel on Day One of the job?
It was like the first day of school. It was all nerves. I was thinking, can I hang with the big boys? Can I succeed with the best of them? The greatest thing about being a union member is that the union takes care of their guys. If you don’t know something, they’re willing to teach you. They always want you to be safe. I can go to my foreman, I can to my journeyman, I can go to some of my co-workers and if I have a problem with this, they show me how to get the job done and get the job done safely, correctly, and professionally.
How has the pre-apprenticeship program prepared you for your job?
The first two weeks of the program taught me skills I use every day. It’s the life skills part of it -- being able to work productively with your team and be assertive as a leader within your team. Play your role. Get the job done. I’m always early. I’m one of the first guys to get here. It’s all about carrying myself in a productive and professional manner. My co-workers don’t see my background. They see a guy who is professional and a lot of that comes from the tools I learned through the pre-apprenticeship program.
Thank you to program partners Los Angeles Trade Technical College and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, as well as ECMC Foundation, the Rose Hills Foundation, and all of ARC's generous funders for making this program possible.
Center photo by Michael Moriatis, ICG: International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600); All other photos by Chip Warren.