Burris Finds Career Success Through MCEF Apprenticeship Program

On-the-job training a perfect fit for aspiring electrician and his employer


            RIDGELAND, Miss. – For Matt Burris, the search for a career that matched his skills and interests was leading nowhere — until he discovered an on-the-job training program offered by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.

“After I graduated from high school, college really wasn’t an option for me,” Burris said. “I wandered around from job to job – working on cars, pouring concrete, repairing houses – just about everything to pay the bills. The only sure thing in my life was that I had no idea where I was going.”

That’s when Burris hired on with a family friend as an electrical worker. While he knew little about the trade, he was fortunate that his new employer relied on MCEF’s four-year apprenticeship program to train his employees.

Approved by the Department of Labor, MCEF’s apprenticeship program prepares journeymen in eight trades: carpentry, electrical, HVAC, pipefitting, plumbing, sheet metal, welding and interior finish. Students must work for an approved employer to be accepted into the program, which includes a total of 576 hours of classroom instruction and 8,000 on-the-job training hours. Students work during the day and take classes at night.

Burris’ workweek consisted of four 10-hour days anchored by a four-hour class on Friday that included lecture, lab, written tests and hands-on performance tests.

“Not only was my employer paying for me to learn, but I was also receiving on-the-job training that was second to none,” said Burris. “If there wasn’t time to talk something through at work, I could go to class and ask as many questions as I wanted. It was an approach that accelerated the learning curve and made the most efficient use of my time in the classroom.”

Capitalizing on the opportunities before him, Burris signed up for MCEF’s 2010 state craft competition, which invites trade professionals to compete in their respective categories for cash prizes and a chance to advance to the national championship in San Diego, California.

Burris won the electrical category of the state event, moving on to finish fourth nationally among a crowd of competitors from all 50 states. The expense-paid experience opened his eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

“One thing I kept hearing in my discussions with other participants was a sense of pride for being able to do what they enjoy and for being appreciated and rewarded for their talents,” said Burris. “No matter which trade they were pursuing, they were excited about having a chance to grow and advance in their chosen profession.”

Since completing the MCEF apprenticeship program and earning his journeyman electrician designation in 2010, Burris’s career has taken off. He has become a licensed residential electrician while gaining experience as a service technician and construction foreman.

Today, he works as an electric meter man with Jackson-based Entergy Mississippi, where he wires and installs transformer-rated meters for commercial buildings.

Expressing gratitude to his employers and to MCEF, Burris noted that he would not be where he is without the apprenticeship training program.

“Graduates of the apprenticeship program are some of the most dedicated and hardest-working people I’ve ever met,” said Burris. “Their employers also deserve credit for placing a high value on professional development and supporting employees who want to advance in their trades. Their participation helps ensure that Mississippi has a highly skilled workforce to support the state’s growing construction and manufacturing industries.”

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a quality workforce for the construction and manufacturing industries in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.

Learn more about MCEF at http://mcef.net. 

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