Featured Apprenticeship: Wanzek Construction, Inc.
Apprentice Hunter Meadows (left), with his journey-level mentor, Daniel Lopez. Photo courtesy Wanzek Construction, Inc.
Employer: Wanzek Construction, Inc
Program Sponsor: Wanzek (employer-sponsored)
Apprenticeable Occupation: Construction Craft Laborer (O*Net: 47-2061.00)
Company Role: Construction Craft Laborer
Date Established: 2022
Registered / Operating in: Nationally registered; apprentices based in several states
Format/ Length of Program: Time-based; 2 years
Related Technical Instruction: Delivered in-house by staff subject matter experts
Program at a Glance
Wanzek, a commercial and utility-scale renewable energy construction company, launched a Construction Craft Laborer Apprenticeship Program in 2022. The program is registered nationally with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), accredited by the National Center for Construction & Research (NCCER), and approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for veteran participants to receive GI Bill housing stipends. The program is designed to cultivate a pipeline of highly trained and talented craft team members. Wanzek chose to run the apprenticeship fully in-house. This allowed the company to tailor and adapt the curriculum and learning outcomes to meet its business needs, while preparing apprentices for their specific work processes and pathways.
Developing & Registering the Program
Wanzek identified the work processes and job functions to prioritize in the apprenticeship program and selected NCCER curriculum to support a range of learning outcomes, including core curriculum and standard CCL materials, supplemented by energy-specific content and their Craft Safety program.
Wanzek staff worked closely with DOL throughout this process to ensure alignment with the 25% modification allowance. Developing and registering the program took about three months.
Work Process Schedule
Apprentices complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training, supplemented by 360 hours of classroom-based related technical instruction over the course of two years. Throughout this time, each apprentice is matched (1:1 ratio) with a journey-level Wanzek mentor.
The apprenticeship is a long-term investment in the employee, so apprentices start out with on-the-job training first to get a feel for the job and make sure it’s the right fit. Within 90 days, they get into related technical instruction (RTI) and formal training. Every six months, apprentices receive two weeks of RTI led by Wanzek experts, then return to the field to apply that knowledge. Wanzek is building a bench of expert instructors, and the apprenticeship creates an opportunity for senior staff to develop their instruction and mentorship skills.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
There is an interview process for all prospective apprentices. The first cohort launched in 2022 with eight apprentices based at projects across several states. New cohorts start generally on a quarterly basis, depending on project needs. Defining and recruiting the right candidates is key to program success—while some incumbent employees in the laborer role joined the apprenticeship program, early career individuals new to the trade make ideal apprentices.
“Over the seven months since I have joined this program, it’s given me skills I can use every day on and off the job site. These skills have consisted of the intricacies of solar panels, large-scale operations for building rotors for wind turbines, leadership, and becoming more acquainted with different tools. It’s let me travel to new places, such as Texas and South Dakota, that I originally didn’t think I would see at such a young age. It’s a program that can really help out in the long run for the industry, with a more hands-on approach to teaching those interested in this career that goes further than a basic new hire program.”Apprentice Hunter Meadows
Learn more at: wanzek.com/apprenticeship-program