Deaf apprentice Cory Davis pursues his dream despite language barrier
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Much to the delight of his IBEW Local 1 family, Cory Davis, a fifth-year IBEW Local 1 apprentice who has been deaf since birth, has been named the 2018 IBEW Apprentice of the Year.
Davis, who was selected among 400 nominations nationwide, received the award last month at the 2019 IBEW Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington. The 37-year-old father of four said he was shocked to learn he had won the prestigious honor.
“I want to say, ‘Thank you to Local 1 for getting me in and to my wife Rebecca for supporting me,’” Davis signed at the award ceremony. “I’m very proud to be a member of the IBEW.”
KNEW AS A CHILD HE WANTED TO BE AN ELECTRICIAN
Davis, originally from Alton, IL, knew as a child he wanted to be an electrician. His father worked at a telecommunications company and brought his scrap home and Davis would practice wiring.
After receiving his associate degree in electrical technology from Harper Williams College in Palatine, IL, he stayed in the Chicago area and worked for a company building control panels.
Eventually, Davis moved back to the St. Louis area, married and started a family. He knew that he needed to join the IBEW to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an electrician.
THE BIG BREAK
In 2014, he met IBEW Local 1 Business Representative John Kahrhoff at an air show. Davis and Kahrhoff, a licensed interpreter, struck up a conversation, and after learning about Davis’ qualifications and his goals, Kahrhoff knew Davis had a future with the IBEW Local 1 family and talked it over with Business Manager Frank Jacobs.
“John walked in with his credentials, and I said, ‘Let’s get him in here for an interview and make sure there is an interpreter,’” Jacobs said. “He came in for the interview and did really well, and he was selected into the apprenticeship program.”
The IBEW Electricians Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee committed to giving Davis full communication access through sign language throughout his apprenticeship training.
TOP OF HIS CLASS
“Cory finished the program at the top of his class and had the highest grade point average, and continues to receive outstanding evaluations on the job,” said Dennis Gralike, director of the St. Louis Electrical Industry Training Center.
Mike Hood, former vice president of Bell Electric who has bilateral hearing loss, took Davis under his wing and hired him in 2014. Hood has since retired, but still enjoys learning about Davis’ success on the job.
WELL RESPECTED ON THE JOB
“The work that Cory does is impressive, and he is respected on the job,” Gralike said. “Even journeymen wiremen look up to him because of what he has accomplished and how good he is at what he does.”
Davis communicates with his co-workers via writing and pointing to blueprints. He attends union meetings on a regular basis and takes part in many his union’s community service opportunities.
“My advice to other apprentices or those considering an IBEW Local 1 apprenticeship is to just be yourself,” Davis said. “Show your knowledge of the industry and what you can do and work hard, and you’ll do just fine.”
ANOTHER NATIONAL HONOR
In August, Davis will be attending the IBEW National Training Institute in Ann Arbor, MI, where he will be recognized by the IBEW National Training Committee – which oversees the curriculum for the IBEW/National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) training program – as an outstanding apprentice.
“I imagine Cory will serve as an inspiration to the many instructors that will be attending the event,” Gralike said.