Seasoned Pros Continue to Grow

Seasoned Pros Continue to Grow

Kevin Wilkins, Tim Larsen, Phil Stanny and Jim Turner are four veteran members of a nine-person team that spends its days (and often nights and weekends) maintaining more than 2 million square feet of U-M Athletics facilities; everything from venerable Yost Ice Arena to the brand new track and field building to the rowing team’s boat house on Belleville Lake.

Everyone wins when employees grow their skill set and advance their careers with WCC’s new in-house apprenticeship program.

They perform year-round preventative maintenance and are the department’s first responders when corrective maintenance is required – like last fall, when a bathroom pipe burst while 110,000 fans were packed into Michigan Stadium for a football game. It was closed, fixed and reopened before fans streamed toward bathrooms at halftime.

“Events are what funds this place,” Larsen says. “You can’t just shut things down.”

For the past 15 months, the same foursome – which has a combined 56 years of service with the department – have been pioneers in an apprenticeship program they conceived and helped to develop. Upon successful completion of two HVAC classes, an electrical class and a welding class at WCC, they’re eligible to be bumped up one grade level in U-M’s employment structure and receive the associated hourly
pay increase.

The program came together through input from the technicians, their union, U-M Athletics, the university’s human resources department and WCC’s Office of Apprenticeship. The result is curriculum that will be offered to all current and future U-M Athletics maintenance technicians interested in advancing their careers with the department.

It’s a win-win situation for employees and the department, according to U-M Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Rob Rademacher.

“It’s an opportunity for our employees to further their careers, gain a higher-level skill set and make themselves better,” Rademacher said.

“On the other hand, it benefits the department with higher-skilled employees who can do more, and it helps to create a culture where people want to work here.”

All four technicians said returning to a classroom and laboratory setting made them nervous at first, but said the instructors at WCC have made the experience a positive one.

“Some of the students in the class are coming in really green, so the instructors challenge us a little harder because we’ve been around and done a little bit,” said Turner. “But all four instructors we’ve had have gone above and beyond and done a fantastic job. Their skill level is awesome.”



WCC HVACR students learn to solve problems they will encounter on the job by diagnosing and fixing real, working equipment during class time. WCC offers students the opportunity to get hands-on learning with state-of-the-art equipment. Three labs incorporate 7,000 square ft. of instructional space. Students train using:

  • Top-of-the-line, high-efficiency air conditioning units and standard units
  • Geo-thermal technology
  • Heat pumps, oil heating, natural gas equipment, boilers and electrical systems
  • A fully-equipped sheet metal lab


The majority of WCC HVACR students find employment by the time they finish the program. HVACR technicians work in a variety of areas, such as repair, installation and maintenance, and sales. Technicians may also become independent contractors.

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