Feyen Zylstra’s Neil Kooiman named “2019 West Michigan Craft Professional of the Year”
(GRAND RAPIDS, MI) -- National construction trade association Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Western Michigan chapter has named Neal Kooiman the 2019 West Michigan Craft Professional of the Year (CPOY). Kooiman is a construction superintendent at electrical services and industrial tech firm Feyen Zylstra.
ABC seeks out well deserving candidates for the CPOY each year, reaching out to area construction companies for nominees who demonstrate passion for the trade, craft mastery, leadership skills, and a high standard of professional excellence.
This year’s West Michigan CPOY award winner was announced live at the Excellence in Construction Awards Thursday, Sept. 19, at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids. The runners up were Gary Peasley of Owens-Ames-Kimball, and Holly Wight from Control Logic.
The award is especially relevant today with the dramatic shortage of skilled tradespeople nationwide. The shortfall comes from a backlash of skilled workers who never returned to the industry post-recession, and growing numbers of young people choosing a four-year degree and white-collar careers.
Kooiman has spent over 26 years at the firm, located on Grand Rapids’ west side, beginning with his formidable apprenticeship days and eventual promotion to his current superintendent role. As an advocate for the skilled trades, he’s helped teach the next generation of journeymen in Feyen Zylstra’s apprenticeship program.
“There’s pride in working as an electrician,” says Kooiman. “It’s satisfying and gratifying to see a pile of dirt transform into a living breathing building that people will use and enjoy for years. I love what I do. We have the opportunity to teach young people the power of working with their hands to create something.”
Kooiman is known for his ability to understand complex situations and solve jobsite issues with an ease and authenticity. Always an early adopter of technology, Kooiman has participated in many pilot programs and advocated for the use of virtual design in the field. His commitment to safe jobsites is evident by his daily interactions. His colleagues refer to his signature “arm-around-the-shoulder” method as a gentle reminder, whether on the Feyen Zylstra crew or not, to work safe and return home is what’s important.
Aside from teaching first year apprentices, Kooiman is active in the firm’s community outreach programs where recruitment is key in addressing the labor shortage. These programs target middle and high school students who aren’t aware of construction and tech career options.
“Mentorship is more than just training someone how to do a task. It’s making someone know that you actually care about them and their future,” says Kooiman.