Apprenticeships Can Create Lifelong Success

Editors Note: This is the first in a three-part series about apprenticeships in West Michigan.
Part 2: health care
Part 3: manufacturing

Apprenticeships date back to the late middle ages when craftsmen, like black smiths and bakers, hired inexperienced, young people in exchange for a minimal wage, food, lodging and formal training in their craft. Modern apprenticeships still resemble those from medieval times but with modern-day perks 

Today’s apprentices still receive on-the-job training and participate in classroom learning, all while earning a paycheck! The formal training prepares the apprentice to earn an industry recognized certification and a higher wage.  

The construction industry relies heavily on apprenticeships to get the talent they need. It is one of the fastest-growing industries in the region and offers a wealth of career opportunitiesTo learn more about apprenticeships in the construction industry, we connected with Feyen Zylstra, a national electrical services contractor with headquarters in Grand Rapids. 

At Feyen Zylstra, many of their new hires come on as an apprentice in electrical services. These four-year apprenticeships prepare participants to earn a nationally recognized certificate and become a licensed journeyman electrician in Michigan.  

Construction Apprenticeship Equals a Lifetime of Success

Tanner Heetderks, passed the Michigan journeyman exam in 2018. His four-year apprenticeship at Feyen Zylstra included 2,000 hours per year of on-the-job training in addition to 576 classroom hours each year.  

“Going through an electrical apprenticeship has given me lots of opportunities to learn and grow in my career. Having my journeyman license is a huge accomplishment that I’m proud of and set me up for a lifetime of success in the electrical trade.” – Tanner Heetderks, journeyman electrician at Feyen Zylstra

Ken Rollenhagen, technical training manger at Feyen Zelstrashared that one of the big benefits of an apprenticeship program is there are no out-of-pocket costs for their apprentices. Not only do the apprentices earn a paycheck while in the program, they finish the program without any debt. 

“Apprenticeships are the perfect handshake,” said Rollenhagen. “We get to know the apprentice, and they get to know us, our customers and what it’s like to work in the electrical trade. Our apprenticeship program allows us to invest in people just starting out in their careers with training and a paycheck, and also allows us to serve our customers by providing quality, high demand services.” 

Construction apprenticeships are not for everyone. However, if you like to work with your hands, don’t mind working outdoors in Michigan’s four seasons and have good time management, an apprenticeship program can set you up for a lifelong career.