Interstates apprenticeship open house

Jim Haack and Nash Haack watch as Lowell Reith demonstrates how to use a machine to bend a pipe into shape. Haack was there as part of Interstates’ open house for their apprenticeship program.

SIOUX CENTER—Interstates in Sioux Center celebrated its apprenticeship program Nov. 12 as part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Apprenticeship Week, inviting interested individual to come and learn about the company’s apprenticeship opportunities.

Interstates has had an electrical apprenticeship program since 2002. Their apprenticeship is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, which allows Interstates’ apprentices to take their certificates to other states if they were to move.

Being an official apprenticeship program also means that upon completion, participants can test for their journeyman’s license.

There are 148 apprentices in the program.

“Not only do we run our own program here, we have another 44 out in our Colorado office,” said Lowell Reith, a training and licensing officer at Interstates.

The basic idea behind the apprenticeship program is to get people in the industry working sooner, Reith said.

“They get to earn money while they earn their trade. They get to work directly with people who are already out in the field. They get to learn exactly what they’re doing from guys who are doing it,” Reith said, adding that it’s nice not having to worry about student loans.

And they get to be a part of an in-demand industry.

“Right now, the electrical field and all the trades are tremendously short on people,” Reith said. “Any type of skilled trade is in demand. Right now for a job we have in Omaha, we’re trying to find 20 new hires every other week.”

They also do some classes in-house for technical learning.

“These guys come in for a solid week twice a year, plus they put in time in the field. So, they get their hours they need to do the related training,” Reith said.

The apprenticeship program lasts for 8,000 hours or four years.

“If a person came right out of high school or decided to change careers, he could come to work for us, take the classes for four years and then be eligible to complete the program and take their journeyman’s test here in Iowa,” Reith said.

He added that Interstates does give credit for those who take certain related courses at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.

“Most of the states give one year of work credit for two years of school. So, they could complete our program in three years if they had that background. But the overall program is based off a four-year program,” Reith said.

The program has improved the passage rate for those taking the journeyman’s test.

Having an established apprenticeship program has given the company capable leaders from among their own employees.