Grace Morrison, IBEW Local 573 apprentice, working on switches at Warren JATC.

She’s got grit: Local 573 apprentice lights path for women in the electrical trade

Grace Morrison doesn’t want or expect special treatment when it comes to her career. She wants to be known as a hard worker with a good attitude, determination and the willingness to learn. And with those qualities, she hopes to be a natural leader in the electrical trade.

The 25-year-old is a third-year apprentice at the Warren JATC with IBEW Local 573. The opportunity to be an electrician is something she doesn’t take lightly. She remembers the call about being accepted into the apprenticeship while working at a local car dealership.

“I was like, ‘heck, yeah!’ I had been waiting two years to get in,” she said.

Grace Morrison, Local 573 apprentice, working on switches at Warren JATC.
Grace Morrison, apprentice from Warren JATC, with IBEW Local 573.

The “switch” to electrician

However, being in the trade wasn’t always her first choice. In high school, she went to the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center for cosmetology. When she graduated from Austintown Fitch, she had a big decision to make.

“I talked it over with my dad for a while. There was no health care or benefits in cosmetology. You also have a lot of upfront costs and no long-term cash for pension or retirement.”

Electrician apprentices get paid while training, and costs for health care and pension are not out-of-pocket.

Morrison’s dad is a retired sheet metal worker, so she’s never been a stranger to the trades. He’s also a strong supporter of electrical work – as other family members have been in the industry.

“He told me, ‘electricians are always there first, and they leave last. You can’t outsource an electrician,’ she said.

She points to the amount of precision, efficiency and detail it takes to complete a job properly.

“Most electricians are picky about their work. You have to be super organized, which I’ve always been proficient at that, super neat and on top of things. I just thought it would work out well.”

Morrison working at Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown.

Hard-working woman in the electrical trade

Her dad always taught her about holding her own in life, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a female in the trade. You get a lot of respect if you just come in and get your job done,” she said. “Most of the women I know never have issues, and we usually stick together.”

There are eight other women working with her now at a battery storage factory in Weirton, W.Va. with Bruce & Merrilees Electric and apprentices from IBEW Local 712.

“If the grid went down, this would be backup power instead of places using a generator,” she said.

Underground wiring at battery storage factory in Weirton, W.Va.

With a thirst for knowledge, Morrison just wants to be seen as an asset in the field.

“I’ve had people not want to teach me because I’m a woman, but I try to set that aside and keep working. I try to get along with everyone and make sure people see me for being a good worker – not that I’m a woman. At times, though, generational differences are noticeable.”

Overall, she feels supported and hopes one day it won’t even be a topic of discussion. She has no trouble encouraging young girls and women to pursue careers in the electrical industry.

“I’ve had people from other trades ask me questions for their daughters. I tell them that I absolutely recommend being an electrician.”

Key motivators

Morrison enjoys the diversity of the job, the travel, being a problem-solver and creativity that goes into the trade.

“It’s craftsmanship because a lot of the pipework takes time and knowledge. I like troubleshooting and fixing things. Sometimes it’s a puzzle, and you have to work backwards or start in the middle somewhere to work out the issue.”

She isn’t ruling out a leadership position someday. She’s had management roles in other jobs over the years, but for now, it’s about learning as much as possible.

“I want to make sure I’m very knowledgeable before I get into something like that. I’d want to be as prepared as I can before leading a job.”

Wiring work inside Ultium Cells plant.

Although highly motivated, there is one key factor that makes it all worthwhile for her.

“The pride you get from it is unmatched. I’ve never been so happy to go to work. The early mornings can be tough, but I wouldn’t change it. We’re lighting up America.”

NECA-IBEW Electricians makes up a highly trained union workforce in the area. We’re an association of IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown, IBEW Local 573 in Warren and signatory electrical contractors throughout the Mahoning Valley.