Apprentice electricians help at Habitat for Humanity home

Kevin Widmer, 31, strips wires and adds crimps to prepare an electrical outlet Friday at a Habitat for Humanity house in Idaho Falls. The Rexburg resident was among a group of fifth-year apprentices of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The apprentices volunteered to help wire the house. Pat Sutphin /

About a dozen apprentice electricians picked up some on-the-job training Friday while working as volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity home in Idaho Falls.

The apprentices, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 449, spent the morning running lines, planning outlet placement and installing wiring on the 1,100-square-foot home. They all are in their final year of a five-year electrician apprenticeship training program.

The home is one of five habitat projects for 2014, said Karen Lansing, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Idaho Falls Area. Construction began in late-May and should wrap up in September.

The home’s future owner is a middle-aged woman with mobility limitations. To meet her needs, certain aspects of the home, such as a varying height for light switch placement, must be taken into account.

“She’s extremely excited,” Lansing said. “She’s waited a long time for this.”

The electrical workers union is based in Pocatello and has about 600 members, Eastern County organizer James Smith said.

Members have volunteered on about seven habitat builds in the past two years. For the apprentices, the work allows them to earn classroom and on-the-job hours toward their journeyman license. But mostly, students simply enjoy helping the community, Smith said.

“We do anything we can do to help out,” he said. “We’ve got the manpower, the education and the skill and we might as well put it to work. We definitely like to use it to give back.”

It takes between 150 to 200 volunteers and nearly 2,000 volunteer hours to build a typical habitat home, Lansing said. Habitat always is looking for volunteers.

“If we have ample volunteers, the process runs smoother and more quickly,” Lansing said. “The more volunteers we have, the more families we can serve. Habitat’s mission is to bring people together to build homes, community and hope. So, we’re not working our mission if we pay for the labor. It’s one of our guiding principles to engage the community in the process.”

For the home now under construction, volunteers are needed to install drywall, as well as help tape and texture, Lansing said.

Once those jobs are completed, other volunteers, including painters and landscapers, will be needed. For information, visit or call 528-0298.

For information about the electrician apprenticeship program, call 232-4300.

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.