Lamar Austin looks back at the earliest moments of the New Year and remains a little stunned.
|Lamar Austin sits with his wife Lindsay and their four children earlier this year. Cainan Austin, who was born on New Year’s Day, is being held by his mother.
“It was overwhelming because a lot of people took it more seriously than I did,’’ said Austin, now an apprentice for Dover, N.H., Local 490. “I just thought I was doing right by my family.”
Willingly or not, Austin became a celebrity when social media picked up on reports in New Hampshire – where he lives with his wife and four children -- that he was fired from his job as a security guard for missing work to attend the birth of his son on New Year’s Day.
The company justified the move by noting that Austin was within his 90-day probationary period after being hired, but it struck many as unfair. Offers to help poured in, but the best one came from Local 490 Business Manager Denis R. Beaudoin Sr.
After reading that Austin wanted to become an electrician, he encouraged him to apply for Local 490’s apprenticeship program. Austin took him up on it, filing out the appropriate paperwork and learning he met the pre-apprenticeship requirements.
“It’s not that easy anymore to find these opportunities to move into the middle class,” Beaudoin said. “These doors are getting smaller or they don’t exist. To find an opportunity like this is a challenge unto itself.”
Austin has been working for signatory contractor Blay Electric in Concord. The company does work in residential and commercial construction and generator and solar installation. That’s given Austin a chance to work in a lot of different areas.
“He comes in and does what I ask him to do and there’s no complaining,” owner Shaun Blay said. “He’s giving 100 percent. All I ask is you’re not late, you show up every day and you have a good attitude and he’s done that.”
Austin said his apprenticeship has been more difficult than expected because of all the tasks involved, but he isn’t complaining. He recently qualified for health insurance for himself, his young son Cainan and his wife and three other children. He’s found that he loves the work and the challenges that come with it. He also knows he has a brighter future.
“I really didn’t know what electricians did,” he said. “I thought it was simple. But it takes a lot of work to master this.”
Beaudoin noted Austin’s next challenge comes in September, when he begins his classroom work.
“If he shows in the classroom what he shown in the field, he’ll be a stellar apprentice,” Beaudoin said.
“It’s great that he is liking the trade. That is half the battle. Showing up and willing to learn is the other half. With those two, he’s destined to win.”
Austin said all the attention earlier this year made him a little uncomfortable at times, but he adds he probably would not have had a chance at an IBEW apprenticeship without it. He had been talking to a nonunion company about possibly entering its training program, but said it kept telling him to call back and put him off.
When that company heard that Beaudoin had offered him a 490 apprenticeship, it called him immediately to ask him to reconsider and join its program, he said. By that time, he was committed to a career with the IBEW.
“We’re the real deal,” Beaudoin said. “We’re not offering this as some sort of propaganda. We know where the work is and we want to help him and to help his family.”