Tyler and Dean Schrage: Succeeding Together

By IEC Staff

Numerous parent / child teams work together in the electrical contracting industry within family businesses. But when’s the last time you’ve come across a father and son going through the IEC Apprenticeship Program together? Dad Dean and Son Tyler Schrage are both fourth year students in the IEC of Greater St. Louis program. 

They’re tops in their class says Kelly Hewitt, chapter executive director. Tyler and Dean are on track to graduate spring of 2024 and both have overall A averages. 

Dean is no novice to electrical, however. Dean was raised on a farm and grew up building a lot of buildings with his dad and neighbors. And he spent some time working with his electrician brother-in-law on wiring many of those buildings. After he got out of high school, he attended trade school for electronics and began working on computers in the agricultural industry before moving to a company doing lighting. Longer days and travel were taking him away from home more than he would like so he formed Schrage Service Company, Inc. in 1996, a year after Tyler was born. The now two-man small business is based in Trenton, IL, about 30 miles east of St. Louis. Schrage Service Company, Inc. focuses on residential and light commercial says Dean. 

Tyler chose another path initially, heading to junior college and then university to obtain his bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

“After graduating, I had a desk job for two years,” Tyler says. “I realized it wasn’t really working out for me. I did not enjoy the company culture, the long commute, and not working with my hands. I left that job and worked with my dad for a summer and decided this is what I wanted to do. Dad told me then that if I was going to do this full time, I had to take an apprenticeship. It was an opportunity he wanted me to have.” 

It also was something Dean realized would be of benefit to him as well. Several times he had tried to take the two-year training program for electricians already working in the field but it had never worked out. When Tyler was in his first year and reaping major benefits from quality curriculum and instructors, Dean started talking with IEC of Greater St. Louis staff about jumping in. He tested out of first year and began in Tyler’s class the first day of second year. 

“Being in the class with Tyler means we’re on the same page,” Dean says. “Even though I’ve been in the business 30 years, there are always new things to learn.” 


Why Apprenticeship? 

Tyler realized his dad was right to require he go to IEC. He is grateful for what he’s learned, for the outstanding instructors, and for the opportunity to be in class side-by-side with his dad. He has many examples of why he knows he chose the right path. 

“In my first year of the program, dad and I had a call to work on a house in O’Fallon,” Tyler recalls. “It was a very old house with a crawl space that you had to lay on your back and kind of shimmy around in to work. We basically had to rip out all the wiring and then we had to rewire it from underneath in this crawlspace. At the end of the last day on the job, my dad asked me if I missed my old job? I could honestly say to him that even a day like today beat that job. It was then I realized I was very happy with the choice I made.” 

Another affirming moment for Tyler came a few years in. Tyler says they often work with the same experienced plumber and carpenter from his days working part-time with his dad during college and now at Schrage Service Company, Inc. 

“They have had the chance to see me grow,” Tyler says. “They told me they know that I’ve learned a lot through IEC and that I definitely have my father’s traits because they said even our wiring looks the same.” 

Yet another example happened outside of work. His friend who is a farmer got a new piece of equipment with motor controls — controls Tyler had never seen until IEC labs.  

“I was able to go over there and help him understand how it worked; I actually knew what I was looking at and could break down some of the diagrams,” Tyler reports. 

For both Tyler and Dean, it is exposure to work they don’t usually do and the opportunity to learn with and from people who do, that has been invaluable to them in the IEC Apprenticeship Program.  

“Our second-year teacher asked me, ‘you’re a master electrician and you’re licensed, why are you in this program?’” Dean remembers. “I told him and I tell everyone, I don’t think you ever quit learning in this industry. I’ve worked with transformers and motors, but it was many years ago and things have changed. Now the farms are getting high tech and I need this training so that if I run across it, I can do the work or at least understand it. Being in the IEC Apprentice Program has been time and money well spent.” 

Tyler and Dean have nothing but great things to say about the instructors, other staffers they’ve interacted with at IEC of Greater St. Louis, and their classmates. 

“The instructors make sure you get it,” Tyler says. “Second year was extremely tough and Jason Boock is a great teacher. My third-year teacher Justin Garnett is a very well-rounded electrician and he’s seen a lot. And this year we have Jason Gobin and he’s been awesome as well.” 

Dean agrees wholeheartedly and cites that instructors are willing to come in early, stay late, talk over break, or give you their phone number which shows they are invested in ensuring students understand. He also gives kudos to Kelly and to Jessica Garett, apprenticeship coordinator, for their desire to help all students succeed. 


What’s Next 

Tyler and Dean both see Schrage Service Company, Inc. continuing to grow in the residential space as both of them enjoy this segment of the industry. Tyler especially enjoys the service aspect, as jobs are always different and require him to problem solve. For Dean, it’s anything in residential that has him interacting with great customers. 

They have some plans for the future, and it’s another reason why the IEC Apprenticeship Program has been so valuable for them. After 30 years in the business, Dean is seeing more and more customers requesting solar, electric vehicle charging, LED lighting, and generator work. 

“There are companies that do just EV or just solar,” Dean explains. “Right now, we’re seeing jobs where we wire a house and someone else comes in later to do solar. We want to be able to tell a customer that not only can we wire your home but we can do your solar, your EV, your audio and video. In the state of Illinois, you have to be certified to do solar work. With a journeyman’s card and graduation from a sanctioned apprenticeship program like the IEC, you qualify for your solar certificate.” 



Why Become an Electrician? 

“It’s a great trade,” says Tyler. “I would 100 percent recommend it to anyone who likes to work with their hands and learn constantly. I recommend going through an apprenticeship program to learn all sides. We do residential but there are so many ways you can go in this field. And it’s never too late to do it. I started at 24 and there are two or three guys in my class now who are in their late forties.” — Tyler Schrage 

“I definitely think of all the trades, electrical is probably the best one to work in. It’s not as dependent on weather where you might lose work. It’s challenging both physically and mentally, which I like. And every day is different. It’s a great trade, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to make a good living.” — Dean Schrage