mikeroweWORKS Scholarship Winner’s Advice: Find Programs to Expose Youths to the Trades

by Linda Schmid

Connor Bagnell found out early that he was interested in electrical technology. It began with watching his dad, a journeyman diemaker who enjoyed putting his mechanical skills to work on classic cars in his free time. Bagnell thought it looked like fun working with his hands and he knew he didn’t want to be stuck in an office. 

Exposure to the Trades

He attended Memphis High School in Wales, Michigan, which didn’t have a traditional shop class, but they had a partnership with RESA. This organization provides various trades education based on the needs of the community. Bagnell said that it was competitive to get a seat in the classes; they filled quickly. However, he got into electrical classes and spent three hours a day at the RESA Center.

Bagnell enjoyed the classes. The program gave him exposure to subjects that could lead to career pathways he may never have realized he would be interested in, like electrical theory, pneumatics, and robotic programming (which he received certification in). Initially he was afraid to take things apart because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to put them back together, but these classes gave him the confidence he needed to try and to take a chance on further technical opportunities.  

After high school, he decided to pursue his interest in electrical work, and he found a lineman program at community college where he learned about transformers, wiring, and pole climbing. The students got to operate diggers and bucket trucks, and Bagnell loved it — it was so hands on!

microWORKS Scholarship

His mom found the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and encouraged him to apply. Bagnell thought that since it was a national competition with big numbers of people likely to compete, he had little to no chance to win. However, he applied, following the directions and doing everything that was asked of him. Yet he worried that he would make a mistake in his application because when he looked at the videos other applicants had submitted, he noticed that people were breaking the rules. For example, applicants were wearing clothing with advertising logos. He found the video to be the most difficult part of the application process because he was very nervous; it was his first time on camera. But … he won! Bagnell was stunned when he received a scholarship.

The scholarship helped him to pay his tuition, so he emerged from school with no debt, and it was a good thing because the housing market went crazy as he was beginning an apprenticeship as a lineman. LeCom, a company in Detroit, hired him. He was moving and adjusting electric lines if they were too low or too close to other lines, and replacing poles, and he liked the work, but he couldn’t see himself doing it forever. Further, he missed Alpena. 

Electrician Apprenticeship

It wasn’t a problem; in September of 2023 he found a job as an apprentice electrician in Alpena, Michigan, a big city with a small town feel where everyone knows everyone. He is enjoying it. He has a deep interest in electrical work and he finds that he is learning skills he can bring home and use in his personal life, things like making ethernet cords and wiring light switches.

“I think a lot of happiness depends on the environment, the people … ,” Bagnell said, “but if you find that a job is not working for you, then Reset. There is nothing wrong with trying something else.”

As for the future, Bagnell sees himself becoming a journeyman electrician, getting his own house, and maybe becoming a master electrician. “That could allow me to do more of the niche electric work that I like,” Bagnell says. “They say if you enjoy your work, it won’t feel like you worked a day in your life. That’s what I’m going for!” RB

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