Meredith Balmforth: An electrical career suits me

By staff of the Independent Electoral Commission

Meredith Balmforth took some fairly radical turns before becoming an electrician. But once on this road, she was going full speed ahead and watching out for the world. Today, she is a licensed electrician, an IEC trainer in Utah, works with IEC National on test banks and curriculum errors, and a wife and mother. As one of the participants in The House That She Built initiative, Meredith is committed to actively promoting trades as a career option for girls.

Back story

Born and raised in Utah, Meredith received a scholarship to her favorite college – Brigham Young University. With bright eyes, specific goals, and a stellar high school career behind her, she headed to Provo.

And before the year was over, that dream came true. I failed. Those large classes with little interaction with the professor didn’t work for Meredith.

She returned home after losing her scholarship and tried out some community college courses but had no major in mind and no passion identified. She decided to join an 18-month mission trip with her church to West Virginia. When that was over, she returned home still unsure of her future path.

Shortly thereafter, I overheard a conversation at church where one person was asking another – “Do you know a good electrician?”

“It was like I was struck by lightning,” Meredith says. “It was 2001, and I started looking into how to become an electrician. The IEC in Utah didn’t have a school yet, so my apprenticeship classes were at a community college, which uses the IEC curriculum. I knew from the beginning that this was the place to go.” “I belong to him.”

She successfully completed her apprenticeship in 2005 and began working in the electrical field.

Another dream of hers early on was to become a wife and mother. She and Brandon married in 2004, and today they are the proud parents of three girls.

Becoming a teacher

IEC in Utah opened its online school in 2008. She remembered Meredith leading the class and asking her to become a teacher.

“As an intern, I’ve gained a reputation for being a bit of a whiner – in a good way!” Meredith offers. “If I saw something in the syllabus that looked a little strange to me, that was a great opportunity for me to talk to my teacher and see if I didn’t get it right or if there was something wrong with the published materials. Or I would look at the code book and the syllabus book And they were not identical. I was that hasty person who could not leave the details alone!

Today, as a teacher of second-year interns, how does Meredith react to complainers in her classroom?

“I rejoice in them!” Says. “I’m excited because they’re telling me the problems they see and maybe they’re ready to get angry and I can bring that calming factor into the situation. While solving problems can be stressful, I remind myself that doing so means next year’s curriculum will be better, nicer and cleaner.”

Meredith explains that it also shows her that students feel comfortable talking to her and believe she wants to help them become better electricians. From confusion about classes to the situations they encounter on the job site to the wonderful things they encounter about the electrical industry, Meredith is honored they chose to share them with her.

“Recently, a former student bought a copy of the original code book from 1897 and sent me pictures of it,” she says. “I hadn’t taught this student for over five years, but he knew I loved seeing those things “Their reception was very pleasant.”

Sophomore classes are full of programming, theory, and math — which is tough, Meredith says.

“Many of our students are naturally hands-on visual learners and got into this trade because those are their strengths,” Meredith says. “We have some advanced algebra, some trigonometry, and they have to wrap their heads around square roots and a lot of stuff they haven’t seen in a while. There’s also theory — magnetism and electron theory, and how invisible forces move things, and where electricity comes from, and what all these values ​​are about.” It’s difficult.

Meredith, like many IEC teachers, constantly strives to meet students where they are and find the best possible ways to reach them. She appreciates the wealth of video resources available to learners today that were not yet common when she was a trainee. She acknowledges that students come to her classes after a full day of work living full lives with their families, hobbies, and more.

“Their brains just need to know what to hold on to in the moment, as well as what to write down to prepare for the test,” she points out. “The method I like to use is to give an overview first – including the why – and then delve into the details. I’m constantly looking for the latest videos, the latest explanations, and real-life examples of people in an actual construction scenario explaining theoretical concepts in action.

Although the roots of IEC at Utah State were entirely online classes, students now have the option of studying face-to-face or online. Utah is a large state and most Utah IEC students choose to come to class remotely from home, and then come in person to work in the lab.

National influence

That bit of Meredith “complaining” about her apprenticeship? It’s the same piece that led her to become a valued contributor to IEC National as a ‘gatekeeper and cleaner’ of the test banks – those questions available to IEC teachers using the IEC syllabus and content management system (CMS).

“I love this little place for me; it suits the part of me that doesn’t like to see mistakes and the part of me that is downright electric,” says Meredith. “I can bring those two together in a really special place and I can do that while being a mom. ”

Meredith explains that there is a process in place for branch training directors, coaches and executives to submit bugs for evaluation by a bug review group. It is a rolling process and its mission is to keep submissions comprehensive and ready for review. All errors approved before March 15 of each year are included in the following year’s curriculum.

“The curriculum offered by the IEC is the best, but things are always changing and we need to stay updated with them,” she adds. “We always need to have a curriculum that students and teachers can trust and that mistakes don’t cause us to lose that trust. The needs of contractors across the country are changing and the electrical code is changing, and we have to keep up with that.”

Using her voice

The final part of Meredith’s story is her total commitment to ensuring that all girls and young women know that working in the trades is a great career option – not just as a backup if college doesn’t go as expected, but as their number one choice.

“When I go to a career day or speak at school, I put on a skirt, do my hair, put on a tool belt, and pack my bending tools, drill bits, and fish tape to make a visual statement in maybe 20 minutes,” Meredith explains. “It’s good to report.” That the shock factor I was originally looking for isn’t really there. We live in an age where electricians are a thing and women can work in the trades. “There’s no shock factor.”

Meredith says her goals are twofold – to let students know that we need them in the trades and that the trades are a great place to make a living. She passes out her tools and encourages questions.

“I share that being an electrician is a great lifestyle and a career that fuels everything you want to do in life – have a great life, have a home, family, hobbies and vacations,” Meredith says. “The conversations I have at the high school level are the ones that give me the most hope and want to make the most impact because they are the closest I get to jumping into the world. They ask who to contact, what wages, what classes they should take for example. I share the apprenticeship model with them, although it may look a little different from country to country, the premise is the same: you can start day one knowing nothing and having no tools, you’ll start learning right away, and you’ll get a job “You get paid, you don’t have any school debt. That’s a message they can stick to.”

Meredith is proud to have been involved in building the women behind the now popular children’s book, The house she built.

“I was brought in near the end of the project and was able to get most of the finishing work done — the panels, outlets, and lights,” Meredith says. “I got to see it all wrap up in the end. It was a very special experience. The special, unique part is that I’ve never been on a women-only job site. In fact, I’ve never been on a job site that has more than one woman in it.”

Led by the Utah Chapter of the National Association of Women Professional Home Builders, a crew of more than 100 professional women, skilled tradespeople and women-owned businesses built a 3,200-square-foot custom-designed home in Saratoga Springs, Utah. The house was completed and sold in 2021, and much of the money from the sale went toward promoting efforts to attract more women to join the construction field.

The mission of The House That She Building is to support workforce development initiatives in the construction industry by increasing awareness of the skilled trades of the largest underrepresented community.

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