Scott Penman had one vision: he wanted to be an electrician. He wanted to be an electrician so bad at Sumitomo Rubber in Buffalo, he went after it.
The blue collar way.
A tire builder for over 13 years at the plant, the determined Penman went after his dream like he was punching the work clock.
The USW Local 135L member completed two phases of electrician’s school – 272 hours total – and earned two certificates. He applied and landed an open electrician’s job at Sumitomo Rubber – increasing his pay by $12 an hour.
“You don’t have to go to Harvard. You can go to a tech school. All you need is that piece of paper,” Penman said.
It was far from easy, though. Penman said he was a tire builder during the week, got off at 11 p.m. each shift, and was up at 5:30 a.m. every Saturday to drive over an hour each way for the in-person classes. The eight-hour-plus day lasted over a year-and-a-half. On top of that, he also attended online classes for MTE prep.
“I didn’t pass the practical portion of the (Ramsay) test the first time, so I went back at it even harder; I knew there was no turning back,” Penman said. “I had over 13 years at the mill and wanted to be an electrician so bad. Anybody can take the classes through ICD, but you have to be determined to pass the tests.”
Penman said the “Live and Online” classes through Career Development with instructor Joe Hynek were informative and instrumental in helping him become an industrial electrician.
The 13-week MTE course was all online, but Penman said being able to pause, rewind, and understand concepts before moving on were a huge part of his success. He learned everything from industrial electrical maintenance and troubleshooting to AC/DC circuits and motors to PCLs and print reading.
“Online classes used to get a raw deal, but now it’s like, ‘Wow. These are dynamite,’” Penman said. “I can’t say enough about the instructor (Joe Hynek). He was so easy to listen to and taught you the things you needed to know to pass the test. He has a dry sense of humor like me and was so easy to connect with.”
Hynek, a retired Steelworker, spent 30 years Local 1010 in East Chicago, Indiana. Once he hung up his work boots, he began teaching Career Development classes.
“My first class (around 2011) had seven students and only two of them passed the (Ramsay) test. A couple missed by two or three questions, but that’s not a good batting average for me,” Hynek said. “So I decided to go take the test myself. I just wanted to see what was on it. I wanted to know what I needed to emphasize and how I could relate to the students.”
As for Penman’s success, Hynek couldn’t be happier for his former pupil.
“Some of these people are laborers or working a lower-grade job at the mill and to hear about the accomplishment really gives you such a good feeling,” Hynek said. “They are working for a better (wage) scale and really trying to better themselves. That’s why I love the Career Development program.”
Penman said he already had an associate’s degree in electrical technology dating back 25 years, but never used it. Once he started going to classes again he noticed stuff he had “in the back of his brain” started coming back to him.
“I knew about ICD, but I didn’t know it could help better your career through education like this,” Penman said. “I’ll probably never leave (Sumitomo), but if I do I know I have those certificates in my pocket and I have ‘electrician’ on my resume.”
Penman, 56, said he couldn’t say enough great things about Mary Ennis, the ICD coordinator, for Local 135L in Buffalo.
“Mary was godly; she researched everything for me and got the ball rolling,” Penman said. “She went to the depths for me. I’ve thanked her a million times with texts or calls. She even helped me do my resume and cover letter when I applied for (the electrician’s) job.
“I still remember stopping my (tire) machine, going outside and calling Mary (with the good news). That day changed my life and she was a big part of it.”