Hi, My name is Joe Holzman. I started Rocky Mountain Electrical Institute to serve as a catalyst for tradesmen who represent proper morals, responsibility, and virtue. The school and I want to restore INTEGRITY to the electrical industry.
After holding my Journeyman license for 37 years and working for several electrical contractors, I was laid off in 2012. As I was looking for my next job, I discovered that contractors didn’t want to hire someone in their late 50s. So because being a contractor’s employee seemed unlikely, I had to decide what I would do for a living. At the same time, I also put an ad in a local neighborhood app for anyone looking for an experienced electrician to do small jobs, like replacing a switch, a receptacle, or hanging a light fixture. That’s when I started getting hints at my future.
Soon I started getting some calls around my neighborhood and other neighborhoods nearby. I found that people began to pass my name around to their friends as a trusted reference. At the time, this at least paid the bills. I also noticed that I was fixing other electricians’ mistakes in some jobs. The customers complained about the questionable quality of work and even electricians not showing up for appointments. I didn’t particularly appreciate hearing about this angle of my trade.
Unfortunately, construction work doesn’t get any easier the older you get. I wanted a job that allowed me to pursue my love and plant new opportunities for my future. I began thinking of jobs less physical than climbing up and down ladders or crawling in a crawlspace or attics. I thought I could be an electrical inspector and inspect other people’s work to ensure it was up to code. That didn’t seem to be the right fit for me, though. Then I thought about teaching.
Although I have taught many apprentice electricians in the field and on the job sites throughout my career, I’m not one to stand before a class with a dry-erase board and teach; that takes someone with a different superpower. Yet, working with the neighbors and seeing how upset some were because of shoddy work, lack of professionalism, and missed appointments, I believed that morals and professionalism had to be part of any electrical school’s curriculum. So I knew that teaching the electrical trade was essential when it was combined with teaching integrity and honesty to the next generation of electrical construction workers. Integrity and honesty felt crucial to me.
I began to piece all my thoughts together, and the idea for a trade school modeled on that model began to form. I wanted this trade school to serve as a catalyst for tradesmen to restore integrity to the electrical industry. I wanted our graduates that represent proper morals, responsibility, and virtue; I also wanted a school to offer life skills such as professionalism, critical thinking, and effective communication. The idea for RMETI was born.
I started investigating what it would take to open an electrical trade school built on these foundational skills.
To begin, I contacted the State of Colorado for information. They mailed me a stack of paperwork that was 2 inches thick! When I received that, my heart sank, and I thought, what am I getting into? Fortunately, I got some help sorting through the ream of paper from the program specialist at the state, and I was able to start filling out the various forms to create this dream of a trade school for electricians.
I started thinking about what subjects we would teach in addition to the NEC codebook. Where would we hold classes (this was 5 years prior to covid)? Who was going to teach the students? I researched locations and thought about hiring instructors and other things like school catalogs, what time and days of the week classes would be held, entrance requirements, costs, and all the stuff one never thinks about when starting a school.
In this process, I discovered that other electrical trade schools met weekly for 4 or 5 hours at night. I felt that was just too brutal after an 8–10-hour workday; I wanted to respect our student’s time. So, I decided to hold classes 3 nights a week for no more than 3 hours each. That way, students could receive their required hours faster and still get home at a reasonable time.
I also began work on state certification. I wanted the school certified by the state so that all of the hours the students attend classes could be used towards the total amount of hours required by the State of Colorado to take the Journeyman Exam. It turns out state certification is rather costly. Yet, I chose not to give up.
One big challenge I ran into was finding the right instructors to teach the courses. Of course, that opened up a new issue to overcome. I had to write good course descriptions to find good instructors, which took a lot of word-smithing time. After that process, I easily spent countless more hours searching for instructors to teach each course.
When I found a good candidate, there was no assurance that they would stick around to complete a semester, and I soon learned about this. Unfortunately, in the beginning, we had to go through a lot of replacements to form our team. It was worth it because now we have a fantastic group of professionals teaching the National Electrical Code and essential life skills to the next generation of electricians.
I’ll conclude with this thought. One of the most important facts about our instructors is you can count on them to be knowledgeable and reliable experts in their field. We even have one outstanding instructor that has been with the school from the beginning. Like all our instructors, he improves the course he teaches year after year; like all our instructors, he strives for excellence.
All the work I’ve put in was worth it. Our graduates are professionals with excellent critical thinking and communication skills, and they serve the customer, city inspectors, and contractors responsibly and with INTEGRITY.
Will you join us? Let’s build a better future for electrical tradesmen.