We interviewed Chris Wildfong, Electrical Journeyperson at FZ’s Grand Rapids, MI branch, to better understand his experience working at FZ. Check out what he had to say!
What led you to a career in the trades?
“I went to college for 2½ years and it took that long to realize that it was not the best setting for me. I am a hands-on learner and had a few family members that went into the electrical trades, so I decided to check it out. I had heard about FZ, learned more about their apprenticeship program from their website, and decided to apply. One of the best things I ever did was make the move from college to the trades.”
How long have you been working at FZ? What’s your path been?
“I actually just hit my 5-year anniversary in February. I was super green and had no previous experience when I started as an apprentice! The four years of apprenticeship flew by—it felt like it was only two years.
I first started as an electrical apprentice in the construction team. There I spent a full year learning about high voltage work before transferring to the Systems Installation team. There I got to learn and experience low voltage work such as HVAC, fire alarm, and door security.
Currently, I’m still working with the Systems Installation group but now I get to work on robotics and automation projects for end user customers.”
What do you enjoy about FZ?
“There is so much I enjoy about working here! First, I appreciate the different career opportunities and variety of positions that are available to further my career. Second, I enjoy the people – great coworkers, Project Managers, and leaders. It’s always a positive thing to have solid communication and a good environment.”
Congratulations on earning a 97% on the Journeyman’s exam! Tell me about your apprenticeship experience and how it contributed to your success on the exam.
“Thank you! Like I said, I’m a hands-on learner so I really appreciated the in-person classes and labs I experienced during the first three years of my apprenticeship. The last year of my program was online, which I found more challenging. I have young kids so it could be distracting and harder to focus. Overall, the material and labs were very relevant to what I was experiencing in the field. I find that most things are best learned on the job vs. in the classroom.
We need to earn a 75% to pass the exam so I was studying every night to prepare. I knew it would come down to combining my actual experience with code book prep to pass.”
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?
“My favorite was a large data center project which is where it all started – my first job site. I met the team, learned the fundamentals of the job, and worked at that site for a total of one year. One of my responsibilities was the outside lights so now when we drive by that building, it’s cool to see the work I did. I saw that project come to life and learned so much getting my feet wet at a cool place to work. It was a good experience!”
What are your career goals?
“I have a ton of goals. In the short term, I want to continue to learn the automation side of the job. Down the line, I may be interested in moving into an engineering role or possibly project management. I would love to continue to work with my hands.
Jeff Hoeks, Field Ops Manager, is an example I’d like to follow. He’s been the best mentor in my apprenticeship program. He was my foreman in Systems Installation for a while and when I mentioned that I wanted to do panel work, Jeff took the initiative to help me pursue it and helped pave the way. I love machine wiring and machine building.”
What would you say to someone interested in pursuing the trades?
“In my high school, they promoted college but didn’t mention the trades. I’ve seen that there’s such a high demand for trades so it’s a great career route to consider. As an apprentice, you get paid to go to school. Then, as soon as you hit submit and pass the Journeyman’s exam, you feel like you cemented your career. That exam felt like graduating college.”
What is the best piece of advice you could give to future electrical apprentices?
“My advice is to keep an open mind and be teachable. Be patient—you won’t know everything right away. I used to hate having to ask so many questions at the beginning but now I’m glad to have asked them all. The FZ foreman and mentors are open to questions and take their time to teach. This was a great place to learn and I’m planning on staying my whole career.”
Interested in becoming an Electrical Apprentice at FZ?
By Chris Wildfong
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