Career Cost 

Kevin Robbins: A New College Degree and Career, Minus the Cost

Kevin Robbins played football at Franklin College and attended IUPUI, but he never graduated. Instead, he pursued a lucrative career in car sales.

That career came at a cost, however. To earn his commissions on new car sales, he worked long hours, without any company health or retirement benefits. Eventually, he knew something had to give.

So in 2014, at age 24, he entered an apprenticeship with Quality Connection, a labor management partnership representing 100 union electrical contractors and 2,500 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) #481.

Now, at age 31 and a husband and father of three daughters, he’s enjoying a new career that offers plenty of life-work balance and competitive compensation as a union electrician with Storms McMullen Electrical Contracting LLC.

And the training was all free—including the associate degree in Applied Electrical Science from Ivy Tech Community College.

“I knew that I needed to make a change,” Robbins says. “The health insurance, the pay, the retirement benefits—it was just amazing.”

The program is a five-year apprenticeship to become a journeyman electrician, with a mix of coursework and on-the-job skills development, including 8,000 hours in the field alongside IBEW #481 journeymen electricians, and 900 hours in the classroom.

Although he struggled at first with the math that was required to learn the electrical trade, Robbins said his rusty study skills came back, and instructors offered plenty of help. His class included 18 other apprentices, some younger than he was and some older, all learning while earning a steady paycheck.

Robbins is glad he was able to make such a major career switch with no out-of-pocket costs. And even after a full day on the job site, he’s home every day when his daughters get off the bus. “That’s really nice,” he says.

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