INSTRUCTOR Spotlight: Cal Blair, KM Electric
Power In is Power Out
“Power in is power out” describes Transformer Theory. But IECRM Training Director Paul Lingo believes it means much more. When introducing Cal Blair as the 2019 Legacy of Service award winner before a packed house at the 13th Annual Summit Awards in April, Paul noted, “To me, ‘power in is power out’ is the true definition of apprenticeship. A true definition of accomplishment and a true definition of success,” he said. “It also means if I do not put any power into what needs to be done, I will not get anything done.”
It’s a common Cal Blair refrain with multiple meanings that one hears regularly in his classroom. “Beyond theory, the power and energy that someone can apply toward the things they are passionate about and dedicated to will produce powerful results out,” he continued. “The Cal Blair ‘power factor’ has impacted generations of electricians who have had the benefit of being one of Cal’s students.”
“The power that Cal has put into the IECRM Apprenticeship Program and the electrical industry has made a lasting and powerful impact,” said Paul, welcoming Cal to the stage to accept his award. “Cal, your time, dedication, and the ability to transfer knowledge through creativity, excellent communication skills, and innovative teaching methods are unparalleled.”
Not only was Cal Blair named the 2019 Legacy Award winner, he also received IECRM’s Instructor of the Year Award. “Cal simply stood out above the others this year and was nominated by his peers who he has selflessly helped and mentored to become IECRM’s finest,” said Paul.
Cal got his start in electrical contracting as an apprentice with SRT Electric in 1993. “It was dumb luck,” Cal explains. “I worked odd jobs and wasn’t sure at all what I wanted to do.” He worked as a security guard and in television as a gaffer on set. “I thought about moving to California, but three weeks before I was set to leave, a friend asked me to come work at his electrical shop to help out a bit and I ended up staying on,” he says. “I really liked the work; it required smarts and physical ability.”
Benefits of IECRM…
“As an apprentice, there are a lot of folks out there that can do the work,” Cal says. “At IECRM you learn what you don’t get from on the job experience. You learn what you are doing and the theory behind it…how it works.”
Cal is a huge believer that IECRM teaches stuff you won’t learn in the field. “Do you know what makes that light fixture, LED display, or a ballast work?” he asks. “It’s the ability to understand the relationship of materials, design, and processes to each other – if this, then that, which makes a well-rounded electrician.”
Cal Blair, now in his 20th year of being an instructor, started teaching as soon as he graduated from IECRM. He earned his journeyman’s license in his second year as an apprentice, and he received his Master Electrician’s license during his fourth year at IECRM. Because he’d been working in the field for some time, he had the on-the-job hours required by the state for licensure.
“In 1999, I competed in the Wire-Off back then and won the local competition, and finished fourth in the national competition,” he says. “It was such a great experience and I push that in my classrooms with my students.”
Most Successful Work Habits…
The work habit Cal emphasizes most is “Lead by example. Don’t worry about what the other guy is doing or how much money he’s making,” he says. “Focus on the task at hand, show up early with your tools on, and stay late.”
Developing people skills also is something Cal believes is important. He coaches his students to understand that different people require different ways of being dealt with. “If you can become a good communicator and manager,” he says, “you can be extremely successful.”
Everybody wants to be successful according to Cal, and the work is the easiest part of success. “The hardest is managing the people and crew,” he notes. “For young apprentices, this is the hardest part.”
What Does Your IECRM Membership Do for You?
“Being a member of IECRM gives me access to other members and a gateway to ask others about their successes,” says Cal.
For KM Electric, the value comes from the education their apprentices receive.
Cal also is the Instructor liaison for the IECRM Board of Trustees. In that role, he provides insight into what’s happening in the classroom and what students need. He also represents IECRM at career days and would like to pursue more speaking opportunities at high schools and vocational tech schools about the advantages of a career in the skilled trades.
“My grandfather, Carl Anderson Carpenter, was a very simple man who worked in the trades until he was 84,” recalls Cal. “I learned work ethic, respect, and dedication from him. He also taught me valuable life lessons like it’s not what you make, it’s how you make it. How you make your way in this world.”
Inspiration statement for colleagues, apprentices, and business owners…
“Believe in yourself; you are the only one who holds you back,” advises Cal. “The only one who gets in your way is you.”Cal also says that you have to love what you’re doing. ”I love being an electrician,” he says. “I love the satisfaction of looking at my work and saying ‘I did that.’”