Wrightstown student learning by doing as Kaukauna Utilities intern

Brian Roebke photo
Wrightstown High School junior Aiden Humphreys is working part-time this school year for the water department at Kaukauna Utilities. He’s planning a career in the utility industry, getting a head start on his career by working on the job and as an added bonus, earning some money along the way.

By Brian Roebke
There are internships when the intern takes care of the busy work and they don’t really learn a whole lot about the operation of an organization.
That is not the case at Kaukauna Utilities, which has its first field intern in the water department, Aiden Humphreys, a junior at Wrightstown High School.
Water Superintendent Andy Vanden Heuvel said interns are able to grow at KU as well as help the student get experience in working with a utility and finding out what it all involves.
He knows a lot of students think they have to go to college to be successful, but Vanden Heuvel knows that’s not necessarily true.
Humphreys has been listening to fire hydrants for leaks, and has found several of them, working on his own without direct supervision.
He has assisted rebuilding hydrants, leak survey, meter change outs, and water breaks.
“He’s doing work that if he’s not doing it, a full-time person would have to do it,” Vanden Heuvel said.
The goal of the position is not to have someone do the dirty work that nobody else wants to do, but to learn about utility operations and being productive, doing hands-on work without having someone looking over their shoulder all the time.
Humphreys goes through training like everyone else does, working around 20 hours a week.
This past summer, he worked 40 hours with one very important exception, keeping up with the weight program at the high school.
“You’re a high school kid first, and you work second,” Vanden Heuvel said.
Being 16 years old, he has a couple restrictions on him because of state and federal workers laws, but otherwise he’s treated just like all the other guys in the shop.
Humphreys heard about the concept of youth apprenticeships and with him not being the biggest fan of sitting in a classroom, he thought about it, and knowing he wanted to work outside as much as he could, he checked with Wrightstown High School counselor Mike Olson and found out about the position.
He interviewed with Vanden Heuvel, received high recommendations from teachers, and was chosen in the spring, and started working in the summer.
Humphreys enjoys the work because it’s hands-on, outdoors, and he enjoys getting dirty.
“It’s just a different kind of education,” Vanden Heuvel said. “It’s hands-on and you’re learning very valuable multiple skills.
Humphreys has enjoyed the work with the water department but became familiar with the line crew that climbs power poles and works with electricity.
There’s a nine-month apprenticeship at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and Kaukauna Utilities is very open to that since they want their employees to grow in the field and there are often positions open.
“The biggest thing is getting people excited about utilities in general,” Vanden Heuvel said. “There are a lot of opportunities here that people don’t know about and are available.”
Kaukauna Utilities has several recent graduates of Wrightstown High School working full-time with very good success and there are several managers from Wrights-town.
The best part of the internship is Humphreys gets paid. Because he’s a three-sport athlete for the Tigers, it’s hard for him to have a job, and he’s lucky that this job doesn’t conflict with being a high school student athlete.
“It works out perfectly with school,” he said. “Some days I come in earlier, some days I come in later, and after that I go to class, then go to sports, then go home.”
Vanden Heuvel is adamant that Humphreys keeps his priorities in order — family, school, sports, then work. Humphreys sometimes wants to work more but Vanden Heuvel makes him keep his priorities straight because he’s still a kid.
“It gets tempting sometimes when the guys say we could use some help,” he said. “You’re not skipping because you have another team out there that needs you.”
The goal of the program is to get someone interested in utilities between water, electricity, hydroelectric power, maintenance, and thus far, it’s been a big success.
“We have a lot of people here that you could fill roles that people don’t even know they exist,” said Vanden Heuvel, who would love to hire Humphreys as a full-time employee right now.
“He does great and he has a good work ethic,” he said.