At New River Electrical, we pride ourselves on being an employer of both high school graduates as well as college-educated employees. In order to continue the NRE legacy, we attend high school career fairs and talk to students about all the different career opportunities at NRE. Jake Korngable, Project Engineer – Substation Divison, and Wes McLaughlin, Substation Superintendent, are two employee-owners who speak with students about the paths they took to join the company.
Career Day with New River Electrical
NRE often hosts a table during career fairs at the local schools, like Pocahontas High School in West Virginia, and New Lexington High School in Ohio.
Over the past several years, dozens of employees began a career after graduating high school and have worked their way up the leadership ladder. It’s safe to say that attending career fairs is crucial to NRE’s future. It’s an integral part of the company’s search for potential employee-owners to carry on the NRE legacy and continue setting the standard in the electrical construction industry.
It’s truly inspiring for our employee-owners to go to these high school career fairs and engage with the next generation. Watching our folks tell their own stories helps encourage high schoolers to take a chance and pursue a career that means something to them.
From College Prerequisites to Project Engineer
Jake Korngable, Project Engineer – Substation Division works out of our Westerville operation. Jake joined the NRE team in 2021 after working for a separate electric utility company for several years. He earned a Land Surveying & Mapping degree from the University of Akron in 2002.
Career Fairs with NRE
When given the opportunity to attend a career fair on behalf of NRE, Jake relishes in his excitement. “It’s fun for me. I went to college and I spent the $40,000 to get a degree,” he says. “My degree helped me get a career with NRE, but I get to talk with these kids and help open their eyes to all their options.”
Not everybody wants to go to college, and that’s okay. During his career fair visits, Jake makes sure to talk to students about the different opportunities at NRE. “Some students these days look at the trade path and turn their nose up,” Jake mentions. “However, I’m able to educate kids about a career path with NRE and teach them that trades are pivotal to how our society works.”
It’s natural that high school students are curious about salaries, benefits, and pay. “When we show the pay grade(s) to these kids, it really opens their eyes,” says Jake. “They weren’t taught that you could make good money if you decide to go into a trade.”
Setting the Standard with NRE’s Culture
Jake has experience working for large companies and family-owned businesses but found his home at New River Electrical. “The culture and the employee ownership are what attracted me the most,” he says. “I took the job because I could grow professionally while still being able to form relationships with both the field guys and the office folks.”
One thing Jake loves about NRE is the people he gets to work with on a daily basis. “We’re all like best friends who get the job done,” Jake mentions. “I come to work, and I’m with family, whether I’m in the office or out at the job site.” Within weeks of starting at NRE, Jake’s home life saw an increase. “Others have noticed how much happier I am when I come home,” he says. “If you love your job, the rest seems to fall into place.”
When asked what he thinks is the most valuable thing he’s learned at NRE, he says, “The adaptability. Being a team member at NRE has taught me how to be adaptable because things change hour to hour and day by day; sometimes you have to go with the flow.”
From Student to Substation Superintendent
Wes McLaughlin, Substation Superintendent works out of the Northern Virginia area. Wes, who joined the NRE crew after graduating high school, is nearing fifteen years with the company.
Sharing His NRE Story at Career Fairs
Wes gets the special opportunity to visit his old stomping ground, Pocahontas High School, and chat with students about a career path with New River Electrical. “I did a semester in college for Forestry, but it wasn’t for me” he mentions. Wes had a few friends who went to work for NRE and they all spoke highly about the job and the people who worked there, “I heard how they treat their employees, so I asked for a phone number.”
“I took the job to better myself,” Wes goes on to say. “It was a big change from my original plans, but I’m so glad I made the change.” Wes completed the American Line Builders Joint Apprenticeship and Training (ALBAT) program as a Journeyman Substation Technician, became a Foreman, and was made Superintendent. “I started out at the bottom as a Groundman and came up through the ranks,” he says.
The ALBAT program is a 3.5-year training program that ensures employees are trained and certified to produce projects at the highest skill levels required while maintaining safety training to produce projects on time. “You get paid to do it, you’re not going to go into debt, and you’ll have something to take with you forever.” Wes mentions.
“When I go to talk to the kids, their big thing is salary,” says Wes. “I tell them straight up, ‘you’re going to make good money – if you apply yourself.'” Wes comes from a rural town where the high school is home to around 400 students. “The kids that go to college, they do well, but there are kids that want to be welders, journeyman, and lineman, that want to be lineman, a crane operator,” he mentions. “And New River gives that opportunity to these kids. The opportunities are endless, just look at me.”
The NRE Culture
The employee ownership aspect of NRE is important to Wes. “It has to do with how you treat others and how you treat the job,” he says. “It’s not just about the retirement benefits, but that’s a great bonus.”
New River Electrical not only sets the standard with the quality of work they provide but also how they treat their employees. “We put so much into safety and professionalism, and how to treat others,” Wes goes on to say. “Interacting with the customers, our partners, my foremen, journeymen, groundsmen; the professionalism and respect we give each other is mind-blowing.”
When asked what he thinks is the most valuable thing he’s learned while at NRE, Wes says to slow down and think. “Press pause,” he mentions. “Slowing down can help you in the field and at home; stop what you’re doing, think about it, and adjust your response for a better outcome – that’s always worked for me.”
Trade or College
Wes and Jake’s stories are similar in that they both found their home at NRE. However, the paths they took on their journey to NRE are pretty different. Jake took the college route and worked for different types of businesses, while Wes jumped feet-first into the trade path. Though Jake and Wes come from two different paths in life, both stories lead to these gentlemen finding success at New River Electrical.
What’s the difference between choosing to go to college and choosing to go into a trade? Both are smart ways to build a future. For the most part, a bachelor’s degree requires around four years of classes, lectures, labs, and internships. In trade school, individuals usually earn a career diploma, certifications, or licenses within a few months to a year.
This is not to say that one path is easier or “better” than the other. Find out what you are truly passionate about, what you are fascinated by, and then study it.
New River Electrical needs folks from all backgrounds, colleges, and trades, to continue building a successful company. We are very fortunate to have team members like Wes and Jake be a part of the NRE family, and share their stories with students at career fairs. As an employee-owned company, they set the standard for what it means to be leaders, mentors, and team members.