Workforce Wednesday: Thomas Gibson turns from teaching to construction in search for a new career

Thomas Gibson has been a teacher for the past 10 years, but decided he needed a change.

“I left the field of teaching because I really wanted to do something more hands-on,” he said. “I was looking for something in high demand that has vertical growth opportunity. I was really missing the satisfaction of completing a product or project. I like being able to dig into a project complete the tasks and see that finished product.’

Gibson was familiar with GRCC through his work in education.

“As I did research, I found that the GRCC Construction Electrical program was the best fit for me,” he said. “This program is a great environment to learn the basics and because I was transitioning from one field to another, it provides a way to network with others in the field, including employers.”

The GRCC Workforce Training Construction Electrical Job Training program provides the basic knowledge and skills required to be placed in an electrical apprenticeship program in just 18 weeks of training.

“This is a really awesome teaching format,” Gibson said. “The combination of classroom learning and hands-on learning is perfect. The lab is set up with all the different simulations so we get practice for many different situations.”

Students participate in job site, lab area, field trip and classroom settings. Learning is hands-on in all areas of electrical installation including employability skills, construction and electrical safety, hand and power tool safety, electrical math, electrical history, electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, electrical material identification, blue print reading, underground installations and residential and commercial wiring.

As a former teacher, Gibson appreciates his instructor’s learning style.

“Doug Wiersma is awesome and very supportive. He does a great job pushing us. I like the way he allows us a safe place to try and fail and actually encourages us to do that. You couldn’t do that on the jobsite.”

He also enjoys his relationship with others in the program.

“I like the students here,” he said. “We’ve really built a community. The smaller group allows us to get to know each other.”

Gibson will graduate in December and is already applying for jobs. Once graduates of this program are hired, they may register with the State of Michigan as an Apprentice Electrician. The 18-week Job Training program covers the first year of training in the four-year apprenticeship.

This type of life change takes courage and support for the whole family. Gibson is grateful for his wife’s support.

 “When no one is in your corner when making a huge life choice like this it is quite easy to give up. I really enjoy this program. It is the best part of my day!”

According to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, there will be 16 percent job growth annually in this field from 2012 to 2022.

New sessions of GRCC Job Training programs begin throughout the year. The next session begins January 23, 2023. For more information go to

Thomas Gibson stands next to an unfinished wall.

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