When thinking about who he would like to join his team at Young Electric, Inc. in Wichita, KS, President Cori J. Young thinks beyond top-notch electrical skills and necessary licensing. He thinks about the type of person who will thrive at his family-owned and operated shop.
“I look for employees with the mindset that they are in a career where they not only need to learn as they go, but they must have ambition and commitment,” he says. “Without that, they will not continue to grow and find happiness in what they do for a living.”
Cori believes he’s gotten pretty good at reading people. When he interviews, he looks for that extra something that stands out – like when an applicant told him with a sense of pride that he was told time and again at a previous job that he was the best at sweeping the floors. Cori believes if people take pride in even the most menial of tasks, they will always look to do the best at whatever job they are doing.
Young Electric sets the tone for the type of employee they’re looking for right away with this introduction on the Careers section of the company’s website:
Why Young Electric?
There are jobs with time clocks and manuals that tell you what to do, and when. Then, there are careers, where there’s learning, commitment and ambition.
At Young Electric, we prefer the latter. Our team is filled with people who challenge themselves in their trade. We love meeting people who are excited by the prospect of continually learning something new and training with new technology. We especially love like-minded electricians whose first priority is keeping our fellow Kansans safe.
From Apprentice to Owner
Young Electric, Inc. was founded January 1, 1992 by John and Sherry Young, Cori’s uncle and aunt. Cori was hired as an apprentice in June of 1995 and learned from his uncle and others, performing all types of work from residential, commercial, and industrial. He continued his career, learning more each year about automation panel building, how to read electrical control schematics, managing the Dodge City branch, project management, estimating, and building a customer base. He passed his journeyman electrician exam in October of 2001 and earned his master electrician license in 2017.
“Around 2017, current company owners John and Sherry were wanting to start preparations for retirement and to work on the business succession to me,” Cori remembers. “My wife Ellen and I purchased the business from John and Sherry in April of 2018. I have a cup in my office with our company logo and the phrase, Bottom 6/13/1995 to Top 4/6/2018 and still going…, as I started as an apprentice and am now the company owner. I am very proud of the career I have and the success our family has obtained in the electrical trade. This motivates me to find like-minded career-orientated employees who take pride and ownership in every aspect of their daily tasks.”
Looking for that special applicant has become even harder post-COVID says Cori. Previous strategies of utilizing Indeed, ZipRecruiter, social media, and word-of-mouth to get applicants in the door for interviews has been drying up.
“There are quite a large number of able-bodied people out there between the ages of 19 and 54 that are not only content with not working, but are not even looking at their options. This is a problem on many levels,” says Cori. “There are currently more electricians reaching retirement age and leaving the trade than there are new young apprentices entering the trade. This, of course, creates a large vacuum and a finite or limited number of available electricians to choose from for employers. We are looking all the time, even when our employee numbers are at a comfortable level, because we don’t want to miss a possible diamond in the rough who might be a standout employee/electrician.”
A recruitment strategy that has been working lately for Young Electric is an employee incentive program – a $500 bonus – for any current employee who recommends a qualified candidate that makes it through the application process, interview, and is offered a job.
“This program came about during one of our employee meetings,” Cori says. “We have an open-door policy here, and I was telling them that I knew they were all working really hard, that I appreciated it, and that we needed more electricians to help share the load. So, I threw out the incentive bonus idea. I’m not even sure that it was the money that did it – maybe it was timing or simply speaking with current employees to let them know we appreciate them and ask for their help in meeting a challenge.”
Cori acknowledges that struggling to reach potential applicants is not unique to Young Electric. And, it is one of the reasons, he volunteers his valuable time to work on the IEC Apprenticeship & Training Program. That started locally about eight years ago when he placed a call to the local high school, went in to speak with one of the tech teachers, and offered to speak to the students about the benefits of a career in electrical contracting.
He continues to work with that tech teacher, who has promoted the benefits of these visits to others in the unit school district. Cori also has been sure to involve others from IEC of Kansas in this effort.
“Keely Turner, our chapter executive director, is a big proponent of getting the message in front of youth,” he says. “Why wouldn’t students want to hear about a career they can pursue with a small monetary investment? Where the employer is the one that pays for their education in the IEC Apprentice Program and pays them a salary over the four years of their training? Where you’re making $50,000 a year at the end of the program? And, it’s in a field where jobs are open due to electricians retiring.”
Feeding off his career focus and open-door policy, Cori does something a bit different than many other electrical contractors. His electricians begin every day at the office and then end every day at the office. For those returning that day to an ongoing project, morning conversations tend to be employee to management, where team members advise what the day’s plans are, what they plan to accomplish, and reports on overall job progress.
“For those assigned to service calls, the conversations are more management to employee,” Cori says. “We’ll fill them in on known details, things to watch out for, or communications that should happen with the customer. They get to ask questions, and they know that management is behind them. We handle materials supply so they can concentrate on being electricians and not be tied up on the phone with a supply house for the first hour of the day.”
Cori says the end of day check-ins are when the electricians proudly report to them what was accomplished and what still needs to be done or communicated.
“We do our best to provide a professional, solid, and safe place to work. We provide a great benefits package which includes retirement plan and very competitive hourly pay rates to our employees,” Cori says. “Even more importantly, we show our employees respect and appreciation for their efforts in providing great customer service to our customers. We know that showing up to work every day is a choice the employee makes and in return we show them appreciation and listen to them.”
Cori says it’s also important to make time to have fun together, like the big Christmas party held every year the company has been in operation, an afternoon barbeque now and again at the shop or taking employees and their families to a Wichita Wind Surge (AA baseball team) game or to a Wichita Thunder (ECHL hockey) match.
Providing opportunities to learn and advance in their electrical careers is another way Young Electric seeks to retain their employees.
“I’m 28 years into my career, and I still learn things every week,” Cori says. “We encourage and help employees stay current and look ahead. There are revisions to the National Electrical Code® every three years and there are always new product offerings that offer labor savings on installation, for example.”
Cori says the IEC Apprentice & Training Program is the best in the business and Young Electric makes the investment in it for their new recruits.
“We notice a big difference between journeymen electricians based on whether they have gone through the four-year IEC program or not,” Cori says. “The A&T program teaches electrical theory as well as the on-the-job training. An electrician that understands electrical theory can provide a much better end installation product to a customer.”
Cori’s son Jaxen currently is employed at Young Electric and is in his third year of the IEC apprenticeship program.
“He receives the same personal satisfaction from completing a good day’s work and receiving feedback from customers or management on a job well done that I do,” Cori says.