From Vo-tech to Supervisor: Millennials can Find Success in the Trades

Oct 21, 2019

Now entering his 11th year in the construction industry, Chris Smith initially thought about going to college to earn a 4-year degree. He changed his mind in high school when he heard about the Building Trades Program at the Burton Center for Arts & Technology. He always enjoyed working with his hands and liked that he wouldn’t have to spend the whole day in a traditional classroom. Burton students could explore the career paths of a carpenter, electrician, mason, or plumber, and Chris chose an electrician.

He graduated from Hidden Valley High School in 2008 and applied for the apprenticeship program at G.J. Hopkins. He was accepted and spent the next four years completing the required classes and on-the-job training hours to obtain his journeyman license. After working with G.J. Hopkins for a couple of years as a full-time journeyman electrician, Chris took the master electrician exam and passed.

“I knew I was going to stay in the trades and wasn’t going to get a college degree, so I wanted to have the top license in my field,” said Chris. “The more licensing and hands-on experience you have, the more opportunities you have for advancement.”

Chris was promoted to Electrical Special Projects Supervisor for G.J. Hopkins about a year ago, and his responsibilities include everything from site visits to bid work. Some of the local jobs he’s run work for include Virginia Transformer, Harris Nightvision, Canatal Steel, and Dynex. He’s never been a person who liked sitting for too long and has a nice mix of office and field time.

“One of my favorite parts about working in the construction industry is you never know where your day will take you. You are constantly moving around and seeing new sites,” said Chris.

He has enjoyed where his career path has taken him and encourages anyone considering G.J. Hopkins’ apprenticeship program to go for it.

“Take advantage of every opportunity to learn because there is money to be made in this industry. People think you have to go to college and have a white-collar job to pull off a comfortable living, and that isn’t the case,” said Chris. “A lot of guys in the field make a good living because they’re knowledgeable and good at what they do.”
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G.J. Hopkins is a Roanoke-based mechanical and electrical contracting company. Since its founding in 1958, G.J Hopkins has provided reliable, high-quality service, making us one of Virginia’s largest and most respected contracting businesses.

Functioning as a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Branch Group, our firm operates under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and is a 100% employee-owned company. This ownership model has produced a culture where each employee has a vested interest in the successful completion of every project and absolute satisfaction for every client. As we continue to cultivate a thriving work atmosphere, we continue to grow.

To learn more about a career in construction with G.J. Hopkins, please visit gjhopkins.com/careers.

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