Dynamic Electrical Apprentice Rhylea Morgan Has Found Her Niche with MetroPower
Rhylea Morgan was two years removed from high school, but she still hadn’t quite figured out what she wanted to do with her life. She had tried college – “I thought I wanted to become a nurse, but it just wasn’t for me,” she says – and was working for Sherwin-Williams when her father, Lemuel Mathis, called with an idea.
Mathis, a project manager with MetroPower, said his company was hiring and offering to send young employees to school through the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Apprenticeship Program.
“I had never really thought about [electrical work] until then,” says Rhylea. “I wasn’t sure, but I gave it some thought and finally said, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’” She started work with MetroPower in August 2018; after a shaky first day on a Douglas County construction site, she’s been all-in.
“That first day it rained in the afternoon and it was so humid,” Rhylea recalls. “I was pouring sweat and I was tired and I thought, ‘I don’t know about this.’ Then I got up the second morning and I thought, ‘I can do this. I’m going to do this.’ It’s been really fun. I absolutely love it, because one of the biggest things I was looking for was a career. I wasn’t just looking for a job; I was looking for something I can do my whole life, and I finally found it.”
A lasting career is the primary selling point used by Workforce Development Manager Tony Varamo in recruiting talent to MetroPower. He’s also keenly aware of Georgia’s aging workforce, and the need to identify and prepare eager young workers like Rhylea to fill the gap.
MetroPower works closely with CEFGA, IEC, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) to help identify apprenticeship candidates. The company is one of CEFGA’s longest-running supporters and partners; the two have worked together for more than 20 years. CEFGA maintains a database of students and graduates of high school construction programs, helping connect companies such as MetroPower to job candidates.
In Rhylea’s case, the connection was already in-house, but she certainly was not guaranteed a job. She earned Varamo’s confidence in her interview, and both sides went away feeling good about the opportunity.
“I was very impressed with her can-do attitude,” Varamo says. “She’s always very positive and willing to help others. She’s also very interested in furthering her career as an electrician and has a clear vision of her future. Rhylea made it very clear up front that she wanted a career, so it was an easy sell after that.”
The IEC program in which Rhylea is enrolled is a four-year commitment. Apprentices attend a four-hour night class each week and work a full 40-hour week. Upon completion they will have amassed some 576 hours of classroom learning in safety practices, electrical theory, blueprint reading, math and the National Electric Code – not to mention at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.
“There’s so much information,” Rhylea says. “I have my codebook and I’m always flipping through that and trying to soak it all in. When I’m doing homework, I can ask my dad some of the questions and usually he can just rattle off the answer. It’s good to know I can go to him for help.”
Rhylea also got to see her father in action when her first job site happened to be one where he was working. “That was pretty cool, to actually get to learn from my dad out there,” she recalls. “We were able to snap a picture of us together, wearing our vests and our helmets, and that’s one of my mom’s favorite pictures now.”
Rhylea grew up in Carrollton, but moved to Springtown, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb, as a high school sophomore. She met her future husband, a competitive bull rider, in Texas. He’s continued to pursue that profession since moving with Rhylea to Georgia, and she often accompanies him to bull riding events on weekends.
Clearly, Rhylea is a young woman not intimidated by hard work and rugged outdoor environments. When her father encouraged her to consider a construction industry career, he also issued a warning, and she’s been up to the challenge.
“He said, ‘Now Rhylea, it’s going to be different, because you’re going to be one of the only women out there.’ But I was raised that I can do anything I put my mind to. A few people looked at me like, ‘What are you doing out here?’ But everybody I work with has been really welcoming and helpful about making sure I have what I need. Even though I am one of the only females out here, they all treat me like one of them, and that’s what I want. I’m doing the same work as them and I don’t want to be treated any different.
“I want to show that women can come out here and we can do this,” she adds. “We might have to work a little harder, but we can do it.”
Meanwhile, Varamo and CEFGA continue the hard work of showing young people the boundless potential of construction industry careers.
“Introducing students to the trades is not an immediate fix for our current workforce shortage,” Varamo says, “but if we plant the seed now, and cultivate it, we will be able to reap the benefits in the future. Workforce development managers like me, as well as recruiters, attend as many middle school, high school, technical college, and college career fairs and career exploration events as possible to get the word out about careers in construction.”
VIDEO: Rhylea discusses her decision to take on a new career challenge. Follow us on our YouTube channel to hear about more successful construction careers in Georgia.