I suggest starting with a union contractor. In some states, union contractors have a better chance of winning bids and getting projects.
Your idea about working for knowledge rather than simply money is a good attitude. I think you have a good opportunity to learn a great deal on the job. After a few years, you could consider becoming an electrical engineer and specilize in industrial controls. An engineer with practical hands-on experience, which you'll be getting, is a good combination.
It also depends on what type of work you want to do. Around here most (not all) of the union shops do (primarily) new construction. Getting in isn't always easy but they do keep you going; there's always construction in the MD/VA/DC metro area. If you wanted to do service work you'd have a better chance in the non union area. But Ryan has the real answer ... get employed; the rest will work itself out.