APPRENTICE Spotlight: Christian Veeder, Custom Electrical Contractors
Put in the work, shovel the manure…everything finds its way.
“I’m a Navy brat,” says 1st-year apprentice, Christian Veeder of Custom Electrical Contractors.
Despite that fact, even though the term brat denotes a negative connotation in the civilian sector, it’s a traditional term of endearment, a rite of passage, a badge, and label, a representation of a class of elite kiddos who are an amazing bunch. Christian fits that description to a ‘T’.
Born in Yokosuka, Japan, Christian has been part of a lifestyle that is unique, comes with its own set of rules and is not an easy feat. “You tend to develop a very specific skill set. You learn how to pack your room up every other year, how to say goodbye to your friends, and how to make new ones,” says Christian. “At the time, it doesn’t exactly seem like the greatest thing in the world. And sometimes it even seems like the end of the world, but other times it can provide an advantage. Often, it feels like a pint-size version of a military contract.”
But pint size is not the term to describe Christian Veeder today. He’s big, strong, smart and able to adapt quickly. “I like to think that my growing up experience really helped me get to where I am today,” he says.
Christian first experienced Colorado while his Dad was stationed here during his Officer Candidate School (OCS) training. “I loved being in Denver and Colorado while my Dad was in school,” he says. “In fact, I’ve been in 45 of 50 states and Colorado always felt like ‘home.’ That’s something that most kids who grow up like I did don’t always find.” Christian came back to Colorado in June 2018 after living in Los Angeles.
“Working at Custom Electrical is working out well,” he says. “It’s a small contracting company specializing in commercial construction.” Because the company is small, Christian has a great deal of opportunity to learn, and learn fast. To show initiative. “When you show that you have the desire to learn and the initiative to reach beyond what you currently know how to do, you will always find that others want to teach you.”
Conduit and pipe bending, running branch circuits, and doing the necessary groundwork to get power to different locations is what Christian enjoys the most. “It’s a feeling of accomplishment when I can see how the work I do helps create power and conduction,” he says. “Over the course of a week, I’m tasked with setting up power for key location and pulling the wire for whatever circuit needs to be there.”
So far, in his nine months at Custom Electrical, the project he enjoyed the most was for IECRM member industry partner Holmes Murphy & Associates at the Denver Tech Center. “I did everything on that project,” he explains. Holmes Murphy & Associates was a tenant renovation and finish. “This was a job where I was able to experience and learn about everything that went into it, from start to finish. This was my project and I was so proud to have been able to work on it,” he says. “Not every young apprentice gets to have this opportunity. I was fortunate to have a foreman who took the time to teach me the process of the job. The how and why of decision-making in that process.”
Successful work habits…
“First and foremost, you have to be able to put your phone now,” Christian says. “Learn to do that and you will get a lot more out of school and your training.” He is pretty emphatic about this while acknowledging that smartphones are an amazing learning tool as well. “They are great, but they also are a major distraction.” Wise words from a kid who was born with one in his hand.
Another habit he’s developed that serves him will is showing up early, whether for work or at school. “By getting to work early, you can take advantage of the opportunity to talk to your foreman about plans for the day,” he says. “At school, I arrive early to help the staff prepare for classes because the more time I invest the more I benefit.” Christian also convenes a study hall of apprentices who are committed to help tutor and support each other.
Christian doesn’t hesitate when he reveals that Mike Rowe from the hit TV show, Dirty Jobs is his role model. “If I could meet one person in the world, it would be him,” says Christian. “I was in pre-med in college when I figured out that I wasn’t very good at it. I always was a fan of Rowe’s show. The episode that impacted me the most was when Rowe met a guy, who for 10 years shoveled manure into pots, then turned it into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.”
That particular story taught Christian that college isn’t for everyone and hard work translates into something bigger. Shortly after he watched that episode, a friend invited him to help out at his family’s electrical shop. “I fell in love with electricity,” Christian says.
Benefits of IECRM…
“People don’t always understand that labor-intensive work and dangerous jobs require respect. IECRM has taught me that,” says Christian. “I’ve learned a lot about the theory of what I do on a daily basis. IECRM help me make sense of my work on the job site.”
Christian also puts a great deal of emphasis on getting on the IECRM Hire List. “Being on that list is invaluable,” he emphasizes. “I had applied to at least 10 different contracting firms and never got a call back. But, once I was listed on the Hire List, contractors began to call me.”
Another IECRM benefit Christian underscores is the ability to transfer his time learning the electrical trade at IECRM to viable college credits at the end of his four years. “This is a terrific way to go on to get a college degree if you wish, all the while having a well-paying career and transferable skills that will compliment – and I don’t mean pre-med,” he laughs.
Inspiration statement for apprentices, high school students, and co-workers…
“Work hard and stick with it,” he says. “If you put in the work that effort pays out dividends ten-fold.” Remember the multimillionaire guy who shoveled manure.
For high school students considering their options, Christian advises, “Don’t look at college as the be-all, end-all. A career in a skilled trade is of equal stature and in many cases will provide you with more financial benefit and security long term.”