Training Programs Making a Positive Impact on the Industry

October 11, 2023

Our vision, values, and why statements live at the core of who we are. They help guide our choices and build our company culture. We try to remain true to each piece of our core as they all integrate, from our vision of Understanding Needs and Delivering Results to our values of dependability, trust, integrity, quality, and family. One of our why statements, Providing Opportunities for Our People, is a key piece in our training programs. We want our people to grow and find the career that fit them. We've helped guide our people and others through different training programs. Take a look at three different role-specific trainings.

Electrical Apprenticeship

One training program we're proud to host is our electrical apprenticeship program. Since its start in 2002, we've seen tremendous growth, with nearly 500 graduates from our program. This apprenticeship gives both hands-on and classroom training for electrical apprentices. It can take 3-4 years to complete. By the end of their apprenticeship, our apprentices are ready to take their journeyman electrical licensing exam. Lowell Reith, Interstates' Training and Licensing Officer, says, "This program is a great fit for those that don't feel four or two-year schools are a fit for them after high school. It also is a great place for those looking for a career shift to be an electrician." Apprenticeships are breaking the stigma that four-year degrees are the only path to success. Many of our graduates become foremen or superintendents on our job sites. Some even transition to jobs in one of our offices, like a VDC designer or project coordinator.

We find unique ways to help students achieve their career goals after apprenticeship. One benefit to our program and any apprenticeship program is getting college credit while earning a wage. Another way is being a Department of Labor-approved program, so students are in an industry-recognized apprenticeship. We also became Department of Veteran's Affairs-approved to make it easy for Veterans to use their GI Bill education benefits in our program. Across Interstates, we value developing our own people, so students are assigned mentors to help them personalize their career path in apprenticeship and beyond.

The program's success has led to more growth and exciting changes over the last few years. This program began in our Sioux Center, IA location, and we've added a second location for the classroom training in our Omaha, NE, office. With the continuous growth, we're soon looking to add a fifth teacher to our classroom training. Like most other things, we've extended our learning virtually, which has been helpful when a student can't attend an in-person class. We currently have nearly 200 apprentices in our program, but we want that number to continue growing. With the need for electricians in our industry, this goal has nowhere to go but up.

Manufacturing Apprenticeship

After seeing the success of our electrical apprenticeship program, we were encouraged to seek out other opportunities like this. Looking at our current and future talent needs, we saw a gap in manufacturing. Beginning the Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship will aid our team in our prefabrication and panel shops. Unlike the other two training programs, these apprentices can begin as early as 16. Students will begin as Production Apprentice I and graduate as Production Technicians II. The routes they can take after the program are endless. It could mean jumping into the electrical apprenticeship program, joining our manufacturing team, and more.

The program is set to launch in January 2024 and will be our second Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship program. "To make this program a success, we're partnering closely with local high schools and NCC," shared Kent Heronimus, Program Manager. Like our electrical apprenticeship, there will be both in-class training and hands-on work, all while being paid. We expect this training to take about 18 months, tailoring the program to the individual. Those in school will have training during the school year and summer but reduced hours during school. "Our local schools in Sioux Center are excited to get this going. When we first shared this idea with them, they were thinking of students who aren't looking for a four-year degree and might be interested in it," Heronimus revealed. While the first year will have a learning curve, we're ready to see the program take off.

Operational Technology Ramp-Up

It's not uncommon to think operational technology (OT) and informational technology (IT) are synonymous, and our OT Ramp-Up program is meant to address that. They both work in areas like cybersecurity and networks. What differs are the areas people in these professions work in. OT focuses on industrial equipment and processes, requiring a different knowledge set. Our OT team at Interstates saw this difference as an opportunity to teach and train people who didn't have background or experience in the OT world. To do this, we developed a program called OT Ramp-Up Program. It began in January 2023 and finished in October with five individuals from various experience levels: a stay-at-home mom, an individual with six years in the IT field, someone with a lab background, and more.

We partnered with Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) in Sheldon, IA, to help us train the students to accomplish the program's goal. Each person began the program as an OT Technician and graduated as an OT Analyst. The first half of the program started with laying the IT foundation and allowing them to learn independently, shadow our OT team, and even work on projects for experience in working with clients. Andy Kanuch, a systems analyst at Interstates and a leader in the program, said this hands-on experience can give these students confidence before they go on-site. The second half focused on the electrical side of our industry. This showed students the equipment that the technology in OT supports. "These students get a better understanding of why they are working on different projects. Learning about the electrical side helps them step back to get the bigger picture," shares Kanuch.

Now that one group has graduated, we look forward to launching a second cohort in 2024.

Each training program is a commitment to our vision, values, and why statement. We are working to meet the current workforce demand and create different avenues for the future workforce to develop new skills and begin fulfilling careers.