Throughout high school, Alex Birtalan didn’t want to go to college.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to just shoot in the dark” and have loans to pay back later, he said.
His father, a sheet metal tradesman, approached Birtalan about joining a trade.
“I always remember him saying good things about the union trades, especially electricity.”
Birtalan, 21, applied to the local electrical apprentice program in 2019, was accepted and began the commercial apprenticeship later that year.
A couple of months in, he learned something that would change the course of his education and career path.
In a great place
To be awarded the scholarship, applicants must live in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties and have at least a 2.5 GPA while attending YSU and pursuing a degree that benefits the electrical industry.
Students must also have an affiliation with IBEW Local 64 or a signatory electrical contractor in the Mahoning Valley.
Birtalan is entering his third year at Youngstown State University, where he’s pursuing an electrical engineering technology degree.
“I love where I work. I have no complaints,” he said of “Joe” Dickey Electric, where he’s a junior estimator.
Birtalan’s career trajectory changed just a few months into his apprenticeship.
A journeyman electrician was showing Birtalan tricks of the trade when they made a discovery.
“We were going over certain codes” within a panel box, and that’s when Birtalan realized he has a vision impairment.
Once he found out, “it was a nightmare,” Birtalan said.
There were doctors’ appointments and the concern of what to do next, since the impairment would not allow him to do field work in the electrical industry.
Eric Carlson, president of Dickey Electric, talked with Birtalan about becoming an estimator.
“The team really took me under their wing,” he said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
Knowledge is power
As he continued to learn about estimating, Birtalan approached Dickey Electric about going to college.
“It’s not about leaving. I’m happy where I am. It’s more about having as much knowledge as I can,” he said.
“The scholarship will help tremendously,” Birtalan said.
“It means everything – just the fact the LMCC is willing to help me, it feels like someone is noticing my work.”
In the little spare time he has between work and school, Birtalan enjoys going to concerts, especially country.