The United States has a long and proud history of apprenticeship training. Often supported by labor and training organizations, apprenticeships prepare workers for essential and high-paying jobs critical to the country’s infrastructure. However, the traditional apprenticeship training model can often take years to churn out job-ready talent and is far too slow to keep up with the growing demand for essential workers.
Nowadays, with the help of education technology and virtual online training, employers can address current labor shortage challenges in-house. By offering a new apprenticeship training model that is fast, affordable, and can upskill their talent, employers can continue to grow their businesses and digitally support the new skilled workforce without compromising on standards.
To illustrate this new model in action, we spotlight electrical apprentice Austin Christopher. Austin recently spoke with us about his experiences at Safe Electric, an electrical company in Columbus, Ohio, embracing these new digital learning opportunities to build their in-house apprenticeship program in partnership with Interplay Learning.
From California to Ohio
It was a common residential electrical repair in the state of Ohio that kickstarted Austin’s electrical career from California.
Austin’s sister, who lives in Ohio, contacted Safe Electric to do some work at her house. After experiencing their excellent work and customer service, she thought about her brother, who was interested in breaking into the electrical trade at the time. A quick inquiry led her to discover they had an active apprenticeship program accepting new apprentices, so she called Austin to encourage him to apply.
Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude
Based on the current skills shortage and Austin’s go-getter attitude, Safe Electric was more than happy to accept him into their new apprenticeship program.
With no previous program in place, Safe Electric had recently invested in Interplay’s on-demand skills training platform to create one. The investment would standardize their training and enable them to grow their talent in-house. With the help of Interplay, they created multiple custom learning paths filled with expert-led video and simulation content. The resulting program laid out multi-step pathways that could safely take the greenest apprentice from their first day to graduation in just 1-2 years, alongside on-the-job training.
Accepting Austin into the program was the perfect opportunity to observe the effectiveness of their new investment.
Jessica Morrison, the General Manager of Safe Electric, recounts:
“Austin didn’t waste any time. He immediately jumped into the online training platform and plowed through multiple levels, completing about 20 courses from his learning pathways before his first day with us!”
The Learner’s Perspective
Training that Fits People’s Lives, Not the Inverse
We interviewed Austin to learn how Interplay’s alternative apprenticeship pathway made Austin’s life easier as he built up his skills from scratch in Electrical. He states:
“Coming into Safe Electric as an apprentice, I had no electrical experience besides some DIY projects I had done at home like installing ceiling fans, lights, swapping outlets, etc.
With Interplay’s courses, I incorporate learning into my evenings after work to further my skills. The online training, in addition to my on-the-job learning, has helped expedite my knowledge grasp in the field.
Typically, I will average about 2 hours/week, but that may vary if I have additional assignments due in the coming weeks. I’ll spend up to 8-10 hours a week to ensure all courses are completed early. To date, I’ve completed 5 Apprentice Levels and four additional courses for a total of about 30 courses.”
Safety Above All
The electrical trade places very high importance on safety; we asked Austin how the online training has helped prepare him for dangerous on-the-job scenarios.
“The knowledge pertaining to code, installation procedures, safety, and general practices has fast-tracked me to advancement within the company.
The courses on NEC code have helped the most in my development because, at Safe Electric, we pride ourselves on being knowledgeable, safe Electricians. When we complete work at people’s homes, it’s critical that we know current code and practices so that the customer can rest assured they are receiving top quality, proper electrical work that will pass the most stringent inspections.”
Putting Skills to the Test in the “Real-World”
Learning new skills is great, but we wanted to know how well the training translates to real-world applications.
“The online training definitely helps in real-world applications. The video demonstrations and 3D labs help in particular with my understanding of installation techniques and NEC codes pertaining to each project. The lessons on diagnosing circuits and fixtures helped me significantly in my ability to narrow down the cause of electrical issues in customers’ homes.
Austin goes on to compare Interplay’s training to other electrical content he’s seen:
“There are two things, in particular, I like about this training method over others:
1) I like how the lessons, pictures, and narration are current. So much training I’ve had to complete for other jobs was 30 years outdated and bored me to sleep.
2) If I get a question incorrect, the system tells me why I missed it and what the correct answer is rather than simply telling me I’m wrong.”
Today’s Workforce Needs to Feel Invested in
The new trades workforce is selective about their employers. With the labor shortage working to their advantage, they know they can get a job walking into almost any local shop, so they carefully choose employers based on their willingness to invest in their career development.
We asked Austin if the training that Safe Electric provides makes him feel invested in and if it’s helping him advance his career goals.
“The training and treatment I’ve received thus far at Safe Electric have been unmatched by any previous company I have worked for. The desire for me to succeed is felt and greatly appreciated.
The training has boosted my confidence and allowed me to partake in more advanced projects with higher-level apprentices and lead technicians in a fraction of the time an average apprentice would advance.
I would love to continue in the electrical field doing service work in the near future. If there is additional training from Interplay, I do believe it will help me advance further in my service work.”
When we asked Austin if he would recommend the training to others looking to get started on their electrical career path, he said:
“I would recommend Interplay training to anyone starting out in the Electrical field.
It provides the knowledge to get you on your feet running and put you ahead of those who have no experience and even those who may have been through a trade school. You receive practical knowledge and real-world examples of diagnostics and installations to understand before applying the knowledge on the job.”
The Employers Perspective
Austin is one of 11 apprentices who have gone through Safe Electric’s apprenticeship program. To date, 100% of the apprentices that started the program have continued with it or graduated into full-time, profit-generating employees.
Jessica and the Safe Electric team are pleased with her apprentices’ rapid development and safety-forward mindset. The learning culture they’ve cultivated in their organization contributes to confident learners like Austin, who feel valued and motivated to stay on as employees.
When we asked Jessica if Interplay’s training has helped achieve Safe Electric’s goal of building a functional apprenticeship program, she replied:
“Interplay took us from a place where we had a non-existent apprenticeship program to having something we are proud of.
Before, we had no objective way to tell if an apprentice was field-ready. It was based on a hope and pray method, which had its growth limitations. Apprentices cost us money, so if we can get them to a more profitable state faster, it is a win-win situation.
I would definitely say that Interplay has helped shorten the time it takes from Green to trade. An apprentice may never get the opportunity to experience certain scenarios on-the-job, so Interplay helps fill in those less common learning gaps with safe and repeatable practice they can do in their own time.”
Thank you to Safe Electric for partnering with us to deliver a modern apprenticeship program to your electrical business and Austin Christopher for taking the time to share your feedback with us.