Life in the Skilled Trades

Alicia Prins, Sandpoint High School class of 2017, is a fourth-year electrician apprentice for North County Electric (NCE). She is one of a few women in the industry, and we want to share her story for a few reasons. Alicia found her way into the skilled trades in a roundabout way – and loves the lifestyle, with a bright future full of growth and opportunity ahead of her. She wants other young women to know about it because if she had known when she was in high school, her path would have been more direct and less roundabout.

That’s OK because her lessons can be put to good use.

Alicia was born and raised in Sandpoint and attended Farmin Stidwell Elementary, Sandpoint Middle School, and Sandpoint High School. She speaks very highly of her experience in the LPOSD school system. She had great teachers who were positive role models, and learned a wide range of skills, from coding and computer apps to accounting. 

Teachers who were influences included Mrs. Neiman, who taught her how to use Excel, skills she uses in her current job at NCE, where she builds spreadsheets, and Mr. Nitcy in accounting, who taught her so much about money. 

Alicia’s mom had cancer when she was in high school, and it impacted her so much that she wanted to help others. So she went to college to become an oncologist nurse but knew it wasn’t her path when she experienced someone being told how much time they had left to live. (By the way, her mom is healthy now!)

The decision to leave nursing school without a plan was difficult for her. It’s natural to want certainty and direction in life, and she had yet to find that. She knew she didn’t want to sit at a desk or work nine to five and was exploring options and ideas when her dad suggested she go into construction. 

It sounded like a good idea, but she is too small to be a laborer but found a job at Quest (now Daher) in fabrication and painting. This is when she began learning about skilled trades, and a whole world opened up. When she shadowed someone in electrical for two days, she became intrigued and applied to several electrical companies in the area. A few declined her until one day, NCE called her to offer her an apprenticeship. She started a few weeks later and has been with them ever since. 

It wasn’t easy, though. Starting as an apprentice in a primarily male classroom (about three women in her class of 500), was intimidating. Still, she had a support system around her, including her father and Sean and Lauren Behm, owners of NCE. She took leadership positions and learned how to think creatively to solve problems. She worked on skeletons of housing and roughed in electrical the way the owner specified.

These jobs slowly built her confidence so she could take on more and more. Now, her goal is to one day become a master electrician after earning the title of a journeyman.

Alicia learned about the residential carpentry program at the high school through her involvement with the Construction Combine, a PAFE-funded Teacher Grant in 2022. “I loved teaching high school students the basics of electrical work at Construction Combine. The ones who got it were intrigued, and I loved sharing my knowledge. I wanted them to see that I enjoy this work, and they can too; if I can do this, they can. I didn’t know about skilled trades back then, and if I had, I would have gotten into it sooner,” Alicia said.

Not everyone is as fortunate as Alicia to have people around them who encourage them to explore new things and go into uncharted territory. We can play that role at PAFE by funding programs that bring people like Alicia into the classroom to teach practical skills that set them up for a bright future. 

Alicia said: “Every day I speak to girls younger than I and explain what I do; they think it’s the coolest. If I could talk to more students, encourage them, and show them my experience, they would see an option and wouldn’t feel cut off. It’s what I want for Sandpoint because we would thrive as a community having more kids go into skilled trades.”

Our residential carpentry program helps to expand the current Continuing Technical Education (CTE) curriculum at Sandpoint High School. We are working closely with the district leadership to help them where school funding falls short. If you’d like to support this, you can donate here.