Electrical company invests in its own apprentices

Hoekstra Electrical Services creates program to fill its talent pipeline.
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A commercial electrical, controls and automation services company launched an in-house apprenticeship program.

After partnering with Grand Rapids Community College, Holland-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 are required to have 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and be enrolled in an apprenticeship program. Courtesy Hoekstra Electrical Services

Denny Bouma, operations director at Hoekstra Electrical, said to become a state-licensed electrician, individuals are required to have 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and be enrolled in an apprenticeship program. Afterward, they’ll become eligible to take the state’s electrical examination.

Hoekstra Electrical Services’ apprenticeship program is a four-year curriculum that started last fall with 27 individuals, ranging from recent high school graduates to experienced apprentices, all of whom were recently hired or been with the company for a short amount of time.

Since the fall, Bouma said they’ve added more individuals 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 curriculum called Mike Holt’s Electrical Apprenticeship Curriculum, diversified learning from on-the-job training directly in various markets and one-on-one mentoring. 

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

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

“We wanted to take our 19-plus years of learning and knowledge and teach one of the top curricula out there,” said Lee Hiler, one of Hoekstra’s journeyman electricians and a project manager who is helping to launch the new program. “We desired to invest more into our apprentices and be able to customize the learning and 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 education and a career path in a fun and challenging work environment.”

Bouma said there is a shortage of electricians and that is, in part, why Hoekstra Electrical decided to start the program.

“We want to make sure that students, specifically who are in high school, realize that there is an alternative to college,” he said. “(College) is not the only way to go. The electrical trade is a great trade. It is one of the higher paying trades in the nation and you can make a great career as an electrician.”

Bouma said Hoekstra Electrical is constantly looking for electricians.

“When you are running a business you need a licensed individual,” he said. “You are either going to hire that licensed individual or you are going to grow them yourself and train them yourself. That was one of the things that we landed on, and that is we need to focus on training some of these people that we have been finding that fit our culture, fit our values and that we can invest in and hopefully make them a long-term part of our team.”

After the apprentices attain licensed journeyman status, they can do additional training to become master electricians, Bouma said.

“We really want to invest in our community this way,” Bouma said. “There is a new way to look at schooling, post-high school, and we really desire to invest in this team here. We are not doing this to cut any cost measures. It would cost us even more, but this way we get to lean into our culture. We all want employees that are a part of our culture and follow our mission and values. That is really important to us, and we see this as a critical way to do so moving forward.”

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