The Graybar distribution building in Tacoma is filled with electrical parts and components stacked on shelves reaching to the top of the tall industrial warehouse. The building is where a number of Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) students have worked on their Next Move internships over the past few years.
Graybar is an electrical supply company that’s strongly supported TPS by offering paid internships to high school students. The students’ roles range from working on inventory and managing spreadsheets to working in the warehouse where they pre-assemble and arrange electrical components to support electricians and builders.
Konnor Johnson started a paid internship at Graybar earlier this year and is on track to start a career with the company after graduation, making a competitive wage with benefits like a retirement plan and stock options.
Konnor recently reflected on his journey and future prospects.
Why did you choose SAMi?
I went to Northeast Tacoma Elementary School and then Meeker Middle School. At SAMI, I like the science they offer and also the campus. You can’t beat going to school at Point Defiance.
Something that really stands out to me is freshman year camp. You have to meet a bunch of different people and try to find your place, but it’s also an escape from the outside world. I don’t like being around a lot of people. I love spending time along the water, and I’ve been intentional about getting myself in a better place mentally and with my grades.
How did you find your way to Graybar?
I originally wanted to do engineering and then it changed to architecture and then an electrician. I’ve always been good with math, I enjoy it, but I also did a lot of work on my house with my dad growing up. We did drywall, paint and I know a bit of electrical work. I don’t want a boring office job. I like being engaged and working with my hands.
Alexa Folson-Hill, my Next Move Internship coach at SAMi, helped me explore a few different things to figure out what I actually wanted to do. She connected me with an ACE mentorship, which is Architecture, Construction and Engineering. We designed theoretical buildings and worked to solve problems. I like to be challenged.
She helped me get this internship at Graybar, and it’s a really good job, especially for a kid my age making this kind of money. I’m going to make more an hour than most people right out of high school.
What kind of tasks are you responsible for?
I get to do a lot of hands-on work. We’re kind of like an IKEA for electricians and builders. We put together different electrical components, so the electricians and builders don’t have to spend as much time doing it on their job site. Server racks is a big one; we screw in nuts and bolts to provide mounts for cameras and things. We can bundle all the pieces for something so they don’t have to go searching for them or have to take it all out of the packaging.
I’m really happy to have a job I enjoy. Before this internship, I would’ve said I wanted to go to college because that’s what everyone tells you to do, but now I feel like I can do whatever I want. There’s plenty of potential to move up here and eventually, I see myself as a manager. My former boss here just retired early and is on a beach enjoying life. I want that. I don’t want to stress about making ends meet.