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Case Study/Profile

Customizing a Future With Burke Architectural Millwork’s Registered Apprenticeship

January 6, 2023

Through a Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program, Allison VanHouten is pursuing her passion—working with her hands and building things from scratch. VanHouten originally studied to become a licensed speech therapist, but later felt that speech pathology wasn’t her true calling and began considering other career paths. She knew she enjoyed working with her hands on cabinetry and furniture refurbishing projects, so she researched careers in millwork. “I craved something that allowed me to work with my hands and be involved in the process of designing and building something. I wanted to see the fruits of my labor in a more tangible way,” she said.

Through her online research, VanHouten found an RA program with Michigan-based Burke Architectural Millwork—a custom architectural millwork manufacturer and interior finish contractor. Burke Architectural Millwork’s CEO, Kelly Victor-Burke, designed the apprenticeship for a woodwork manufacturing specialist, a new role for the company, after deciding the industry needed a better way to train its employees. The competency-based apprenticeship teaches safety, millwork techniques, design, and wood processing operations.

Apprenticeship allows for a productive learning environment where you can realize your true potential.

Allison VanHouten, Apprentice, Burke Architectural Millwork

With her limited knowledge and experience in the industry, VanHouten recognized that the Registered Apprenticeship program offered her a great opportunity: “I wanted something where I would feel supported and work for a company that was open to teaching me.”

VanHouten began her apprenticeship at Burke Architectural Millwork in July 2022 and is now learning how to make and install cabinets and closet fixtures, while taking classes at a nearby community college. She’s completed her first computer-aided design class and is now enrolled in her second.

Through its Improving Diversity and Equity in Apprenticeships for Manufacturing project, JFF provided Burke Architectural Millwork with funding for materials and supplies during VanHouten’s training, which is necessary for her to develop her understanding of the industry and learn critical technical skills.

VanHouten shared that although her experience has been challenging because she is still unfamiliar with some terminology and processes, the support of her mentor, a former apprentice himself, has helped her navigate the process. She encourages others, especially women, to consider Registered Apprenticeship as a sustainable pathway into a new and fulfilling career and skillset.

“Apprenticeship allows for a productive learning environment where you can realize your true potential,” VanHouten adds.

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