National Apprenticeship Week Highlights What Makes Apprenticeship Special
November 12, 2019 – Lakewood, Colo. – Apprenticeship is the lifeblood of the electrical industry. It is one way that electrical contractors like Encore Electric can complete highly advanced, complex jobs with enough manpower to build the job right. More importantly, however, is that the apprenticeship model allows superintendents, foremen and journeymen electricians to pass on their knowledge of the electrical trade to the next generation of leaders in the industry.
All 291 apprentices at Encore Electric go through four years of apprenticeship before they become journeymen. They come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common – the desire to use their talents to build something great.
At Encore, most brand new apprentices who have no prior exposure to the trade spend several months at our prefabrication shop. There, they learn the terminology, safety, tips and tricks of the trade before experiencing a jobsite. After a significant amount of training and experience at prefabrication, where they learn how to make electrical components used on the jobsite, they are assigned to a jobsite where they will work 40 hours a week.
On that jobsite, they are placed with a journeyman who they work with every day in groups of two to five tradespeople. The hope is that all apprentices learn and are intentionally taught the skills of the electrical trade, about safety issues and working safe, about other trades and their work procedures, and about the construction process in general.
In addition to learning the trade, every apprentice at Encore Electric learns about the “Encore Way”, which is a thoughtful combination of work culture, ethics and core values, like People, Principle, Service and Strength. It’s accomplished through daily huddles and informal conversations on the jobsite, and by our field leadership leading by example.
“We have an amazing culture here at Encore,” said David Van Stelle, training director at Encore Electric. “We prioritize safety, we provide consistent, challenging projects, many of which are projects that other companies can only dream of working on.”
Apprentices also receive formalized training through apprenticeship schooling at the local branch of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC). The school year runs on a normal fall-to-spring schedule during all four years of their apprenticeship. Encore Electric pays for this schooling for each of our apprentices, and provides them a book credit if they maintain a grade average of 70% or better. The organization also reimburses for out-of-pocket book costs if the apprentice graduates with an 80% or better grade.
“Our industry partners provide a high quality apprenticeship training experience in a wide variety of locations where Encore works,” said David Scott, director of HR for Encore Electric.
Eventually, an apprentice who has excelled and completed their course of training will graduate from the program after four years and be ready to take the journeyman’s licensure test, which allows them to work as a journeyman in their state. From there, these apprentices can be anything they set their mind to: foreman, superintendent, project manager, or to the top of the organization, like our president, Willis Wiedel. There are countless examples throughout Encore Electric of individuals who have moved through their careers after starting as an apprentice.
“At the end of four years, they can get their journeyman’s license and be making $60,000 a year. They will not have accumulated any debt from schooling,” said Van Stelle. “Their peers who will have just graduated from college may make similar money, but will have a significant college debt to pay off.”
The schooling doesn’t stop at the IEC doors, however. Encore Electric also offers apprentices a chance to learn further skills at Encore University, a training arm of the organization that offers more than 120 classes to apprentices and other employees who are looking to brush up on their skills. Those classes include safety classes like aerial platform training, silica training, powder actuated tools and more, in addition to other classes on conduit bending, Bluebeam, Excel, blueprints and specifications and journeyman prep.
Finally, Encore Electric knows the value of the apprenticeship program.
“The apprentices are the future of our company,” said Van Stelle.