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City resident gets big honor

Future electrician chosen as Apprentice of the Year


Kayla Ripley says she’s not trying to be a trailblazer – just trying to stay the course.

That course resulted in her being named Apprentice of the Year by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. She was picked from among more than 2,000 mostly male candidates in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” said Ripley, a 22-year-old Fort Wayne resident. “I just go to work every day and try to do the best job I can.”

Ripley received an all-expenses-paid trip this month to the nation’s capital to receive a plaque and more than $300 worth of tools related to her trade.

By year’s end, Ripley expects to complete her apprenticeship and be a full-fledged electrician. She wants to become a traffic signal technician.

“We do everything from the underground pipe work to traffic signals, streetlights, highway lighting, signs installed and everything in between,” she said.

“I’m the first female in my family to go into this. Construction kind of dominates the male side of my family.”

And the guys didn’t take too kindly to Ripley’s career choice at first.

“They were a little hesitant because they know the kind of atmosphere that sometimes exists with all males,” the Huntington North High School alumna said. “Now, though, they couldn’t be more proud. They know I can handle myself.”

Robert Fox is business manager of IBEW Local 1393 in Indianapolis. The union nominated Ripley.

“It really is a great accomplishment,” Fox said. “It’s quite a big award, and to win it in such a male-dominated profession says a lot about Kayla. It’s nice to see her recognized for her hard work.”

Ripley was judged on her overall effort, including education and hands-on experience.

She works for Shambaugh & Son in Fort Wayne.

Shambaugh & Son released a statement saying it’s “been a joy for us to get to know Kayla and see her grow in her trade.”

She’s been employed by the company through most of her apprenticeship.

Ripley was second in her class in the American Line Builders Joint Apprenticeship & Training program. She is the first female to go through the traffic signal class.

“It really is impressive what she’s accomplished,” Fox said.

Ripley has been gaining vocational experience for three years and is looking forward to earning a journeyman distinction. An apprentice generally works four years before obtaining a journeyman’s card.

Or will IBEW change it to journeywoman for Ripley?

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to get them to do that,” she said, “but you never know.”