SIOUX CITY -- Cale McWilliams doesn't like traditional classrooms.
Instead, the May 2021 East High School graduate prefers working with his hands.
This willingness for hands-on learning proved to be beneficial since McWilliams was offered full-time employment while many of his classmates were still pondering their post-high school lives.
McWilliams accepted the job of prefabricator for Thompson Electric, following a semester-long internship with the Sioux City business.
As part of the Sioux City Community School District's Career Academy, McWilliams previously enrolled in a Western Iowa Tech Community College electrician course. That way, he could apply classroom study with on-the-job training.
Thompson Electric electrical construction president Barney Pottebaum said such job training programs are a win for students, but they are also a win for local employers.
"There are plenty of kids who don't know what to do after school and the program gives kids one more choice to consider," he said. "Employers like the program because it provides an engaged workforce of young people."
According to Career Academy principal Katie Towler, the school district partners with several area businesses while offering a variety of internships.
"Our aim is to allow students to experience a career path that interests them," she said. "An internship in a particular field may be a perfect fit for the student and that's fine. Or it may turn out to be something that gives them second thoughts. Finding out a career pathway isn't the right fit saves our students both time and money down the road."
After discussing the internship program with McWilliams, teacher Anthony Gaul discovered his student had a mind for mechanics.
"I knew Cale had the ambition and a strong work ethic," Gaul said. "Becoming a prefabricator turned out to be something that Cale really wanted to do."
Thompson Electric prefabrication manager Corey Floyd nodded his head in agreement.
"During the school semester, I worked out a schedule that fit with Cale's school schedule," he said. "Cale would come to the shop and learn through experience what a prefabricator does."
Floyd said this isn't a new effort by Thompson Electric.
"Each semester for the past few years, we've brought on one or two high school students to learn a new trade," he said, noting that such internships are offered for other area school districts in addition to Sioux City.
"There are more electricians who are nearing retirement than there are ones entering the workforce," Floyd added. "This helps us to bring in the next generation of electrical workers," Floyd added.
That becomes more important in the current job market, where many industries are experiencing difficulties finding workers.
"Many of our interns aren't ready for college or they want some hands-on experience before continuing school," Pottebaum said. "We want them to realize that the electrical field is one that offers plenty of career advancement."
Which is exactly what McWilliams wanted for himself.
"I don't want to do the same thing, over and over again," he said. "As a prefabricator, every day will be different at this job. That is what I was looking for all along."