Family business keeps the apprenticeship spark alive

By JOHN SON

If business is all about the numbers, it’s safe to say that French Electrical is doing quite well for itself.

In its 40-plus years of delivering quality electrical services to Auckland, the East Tamaki outfit has trained more than 35 apprentices who have gone on to become qualified tradesmen. It currently has 7 apprentices on its books, and plans to take on even more in 2017.

It’s no secret that this strong focus on apprenticeships, and training the next generation, is a key to the company’s continued success.

“We have always had apprentices – it’s about having a team where a tradesman and an apprentice work and train together, helping each other out in the process,” says Chris French, one of French Electrical’s owners.

“There are benefits for youths, with access to this kind of training. And for the client, it brings the overall labour cost down.”

Chris’s father, Richard, founded the company in 1974. After years of “exponential growth”, Chris came on board in 1992. He became partner four years later.

Today, French Electrical boasts a team of 15 qualified and dedicated electricians. They serve both residential homes and some of New Zealand’s most well-known brands, such as Bell Tea, AA Insurance, and Mediaworks.

Apprenticeships aren’t just about developing skills within French Electrical, Chris insists. He has a firm belief that they’re crucial to the future growth of New Zealand’s industries.

“As electricians, we need to remember how we learnt our trade. If no one sticks up their hand to help the next generation, then sooner or later, the trade loses out on some of the skills that we now take for granted,” he explains.

“We believe in continually growing the industry, and having apprentices means we can train staff the way we expect the work to be done. As I always ask my staff, ‘Would you be happy showing your mother or father this job? Would they be proud of this work?’”

Chris says that as the ITO for electrical apprenticeships, The Skills Organisation has also played a crucial role in French Electrical’s growth.

“The Skills Organisation has been great for us,” he says.

“They’re always keen to come around and encourage the guys when required.”

Family business keeps the apprenticeship spark alive