Electrical company invests in its own apprentices

A commercial electrical, control and automation services company has launched an internal learning program.

After partnering with Grand Rapids Community College, Netherlands-based Hoekstra Electrical Services decided to create its own electrical apprenticeship program that trains its workers to become licensed electricians.

To become a state-licensed electrician, individuals must have 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and be enrolled in an apprenticeship program. Courtesy of Hoekstra Electrical Services

Denny Bouma, director of operations at Hoekstra Electrical, said that to become a state-licensed electrician, individuals must have 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and be enrolled in an apprenticeship program. Thereafter, they will become eligible to take the state electrical exam.

The Hoekstra Electrical Services apprenticeship program is a four-year program that began last fall with 27 people, ranging from recent high school graduates to experienced apprentices, all of whom were recently hired or have been in the business for a short time.

Since the fall, Bouma said they’ve added more people to the program, which provides the opportunity to learn all aspects of the trade through hands-on labs, free on-site electrical classes using a nationally recognized program called Mike Holt’s Electrical Apprenticeship Programdiverse learning through on-the-job training directly in various markets and one-on-one mentorship.

Bouma said hands-on experience includes working alongside journeyman electricians to perform a variety of on-site electrical work, including service calls, power outage restoration, electrical troubleshooting or a large project that includes electrical work on a commercial building under construction.

Twice a month, in the evenings, students go in-house to work on labs, review materials, and study electrical codes. Classes are taught by licensed journeyman electricians who are part of Hoekstra Electrical Services.

“We wanted to take our 19+ years of learning and knowledge and teach one of the best curricula out there,” said Lee Hiler, one of Hoekstra’s fellow electricians and project manager who is helping to start the new program. “We wanted to invest more in our apprentices and be able to personalize the learning, build relationships and encourage each other along the way. This program also allows us to give back and be involved in our community by providing electrical training and career paths in a fun and challenging work environment.

Bouma said there was a shortage of electricians and that was part of the reason Hoekstra Electrical decided to launch the scheme.

“We want to make sure that students, especially those in high school, realize there is an alternative to college,” he said. “(University) is not the only way to go. Electricity trading is a big business. It is one of the highest paying jobs in the country and you can have a great career as an electrician.

Bouma said Hoekstra Electrical is constantly looking for electricians.

“When you run a business, you need someone who is licensed,” he said. “Either you’re going to hire that vetted person, or you’re going to develop them yourself and train them yourself. That was one of the things that we landed on, and is that we need to focus on training some of these people that we’ve found that fit our culture, fit our values, and in which we can invest and hopefully make them a long-term member of our team.

Once apprentices have achieved licensed journeyman status, they can take further training to become master electricians, Bouma said.

“We really want to invest in our community this way,” Bouma said. “There’s a new way of looking at school, after high school, and we really want to invest in that team here. We are not doing this to reduce cost measures. It would cost us even more, but that way we rely on our culture. We all want employees who are part of our culture and follow our mission and values. It’s really important to us, and we see it as a key way to do that moving forward.