GCU sends electricians charging into the field

Rosendin CEO Mike Greenawalt (center) speaks with learners during the Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians Night of Celebration.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

As a teenager, Cheryl Harvey joined her brother in tinkering with projects, such as wiring speakers, audio systems or other electrical gadgets, learning “which wire goes where.” 

That all ended in 2002, when her brother died at age 19 in a car accident. 

“His passing put me back. There was nothing fostering my interests,” she said. 

Harvey, who then lived in the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, was out of the workforce and had three children. Then last year, her interest returned. 

Cheryl Harvey shared inspirational quotes with her classmates, friends and family during the celebration.

She heard about Grand Canyon University’s Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians, a new scholarship program with funds from Rosendin Electric and Maricopa County grants. The four-course program taught her math, English and foundational electrician skills to be ready to enter the Employer Apprenticeship Program in Arizona. 

On Monday night, Harvey and the first class of 39 learners were honored at GCU for completing the program in a Night of Celebration. 

“I had a dream of my brother two nights ago,” Harvey said afterward. “He was so happy for me. He was proud of me.” 

Fresh starts, renewals and accomplishment were part of the celebration as family and friends joined the learners, who studied four nights a week for 15 weeks with access to all the benefits of the GCU campus, including tutoring and academic support. 

“The University really stepped up and wrapped their arms around these students,” said William Lange, GCU Student Success Director. “It’s a lot of hours to help them decide in those 15 weeks if this is what they want to do. A lot of them said this is what they want to be.” 

The program continues in the spring semester as another group of 40 learners went through orientation before the celebration. 

Mickey Nuñez said he was proud of this first group to complete the Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians program.

Mickey Nuñez, Program Manager, said the program shows GCU’s commitment to human flourishing, building a pathway in the trades for those not interested in working in a cubicle but with their hands. 

He said this first group of 39 was collectively ranked at the top of the class of applicants to the Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) Apprenticeship Program, where they will continue their skills training on the job and classroom study. 

JATC Training Director Shawn Hutchinson told the group that they are contributing to meeting the high demand for electricians in the Valley in a field that government studies show will have a 9% growth rate from 2020-2030. In return, they will get pay and benefits that will bring them longtime economic security. 

“You will never have to apply for a job again,” Hutchinson said. 

Rosendin CEO Mike Greenawalt offered advice, citing his own career starting as an apprentice electrician in 1979 and working his way up to lead the largest employee-owned electrical contractor in the U.S. with more than 7,500 employees. 

“I said yes to everything. ‘He’s kind of skinny, let’s put him up in the attic.’ I went up in the attic. I went up in the fiberglass and pulled wire and came out spitting fiberglass, but it was fun,” he said. 

And the C student rose up the ladder to become CEO. 

He encouraged the group to not be afraid to lead and seize opportunities, something they learned in the GCU program. 

“I’m really proud of all of you. It’s really hard not to be emotional when you stop and think that GCU changed the way we look at apprenticeships from the very first class,” he said. “I look forward to meeting all of you and have you working soon.” 

Jontreyvius Richmond (left) greets classmate Jared Spurr.

For Jontreyvius Richmond, it was a welcome turn in his life. He said he wasn’t sure what to do after moving to Arizona from Iowa, until he heard of the Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians program. 

“I didn’t have a sense of direction,” he said. “I worked in food service and in a warehouse. But the electricians trade always intrigued me.” 

Now Richmond is beginning his apprenticeship in Scottsdale after completing the GCU program. “It seems to be a fit for me,” he said. 

It was definitely a fit for Harvey. She had hands-on hobbies, such as cabinet work and windows, but now begins a paid electricians apprenticeship in January. 

She told the group that when she started she had no skills as an electrician but knew what she had to offer. “I wanted to invest in myself,” she said. 

Her brother would be proud. This was one of her go-to inspirational quotes to end her speech: 

“Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.” 

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764

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Be not afraid, O land (of Judah); be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things. (Joel 2:21)

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