Austin Rudnicki’s belt buckle is a constant reminder of where he came from, what he has achieved and what he has yet to accomplish. To him, the buckle passed down from his great-grandfather says “electrician.” Rudnicki is a 2016 graduate of Coyne College’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance program and now proudly wears that belt.
“My great-grandfather was a good electrician all his life,” Rudnicki says. “I’m sad I didn’t get a chance to pick his brain.” Even so, Rudnicki did well on his own, graduating at the top of his class at Coyne – a place, he says, that changed his life.
Rudnicki felt uninspired in high school and was confused when he graduated. “I knew my potential, but I wasn’t headed in the right direction,” he says. That changed when he saw pictures of the old Coyne building on Green Street. “I thought they were beautiful, so I had to go check it out for myself.” When he visited the school, he felt a drastic change in the way he viewed the future. He particularly loved the main staircase. “The vision I had put in my head was that one day I’ll be walking down these stairs GRADUATED and on the path of success.”
Coyne’s location changed, but Rudnicki’s feelings for it never did. He knew it was what he needed. “I remember viewing all of the classes. I saw 101 as step one,” he remembers. “I saw the residential and commercial classroom with studs, conduit, outlets and diagrams – everything in front of me for the first time – and I was amazed at this being really how it's done.” He was always fascinated with the trades in high school and tried them all, but the electric field tugged at his heart. “I remember my first conduit bends. They were awful!” Rudnicki admits. “Now I can bend a 4-bend saddle with my eyes closed. I found the love.”
At Coyne, he tried to grasp all of the knowledge he could, and the instructors made it easy. “I was able to reach out to each teacher individually in the class, and open up and ask any question.” Rudnicki would attend classes in the morning and then go to his job in the residential electrical field right after. If the journeyman on the job couldn’t answer his question, he’d take it back to school. “The teachers were able to help me so much, and that’s what made me succeed,” he says. “They kept pushing me, and I kept learning more and more. Nothing could stop me.” Nothing did stop Austin Rudnicki. He often refers to something one of his teachers told him: “Do you just want to graduate, or do you want to know what you’re doing when you graduate?” He explains, “That same teacher said we can’t call him at 2 a.m. when we’re in the field with a question; he’s not going to be there. He’s here now to help prepare us for what’s next after classes.”
When Rudnicki graduated from Coyne, he said having his entire family there to support him and celebrate his achievement was “one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.” Now, Rudnicki is working as a lighting tech, working in commercial locations. “I really appreciate the stepping stone that this company has created for me. I really enjoy my coworkers. I enjoy the work I’m doing, the salary I’m getting.” Another perk is that he gets to travel. “All my good work has paid off,” he says. “I’m in no rush, but I’m looking forward to the next big chapter in my life.”
For those who are considering a first chapter in their professional lives – studying the trades – Rudnicki has some advice. “Do what you love doing,” he says. “Grab all the knowledge you can get, and don’t let anyone take it away. You’re the one who’s going to get behind the wheel of your own life.” As for advice about going to Coyne, he says to do it. “I know Coyne will always continue moving in a positive direction because they have a great staff. It was a great team – a great place for me to start my career. There’s so much to learn. It’s up to you if you want to take that challenge.” Austin Rudnicki wears his belt with his great-grandfather’s buckle every day. “I know I’m making him proud,” he says. “I have to earn this belt. He did. Now it’s my turn.”
If Austin Rudnicki’s story inspires you, consider a career as an electrician. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, employment of electricians is expected to grow by 20 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022. Coyne College can provide you with the hands-on training you need for an entry-level position in electrical construction or maintenance. You’ll learn to install and maintain electrical devices and wiring in homes, factories, offices and other structures.
Contact Coyne College today. New classes in Electrical Construction and Maintenance begin May 14.