Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Small Business Owner Earns CVTC Alumni Award

Recent alumnus, business partner also honored


Eau Claire, WI – A summer job and an apprenticeship program led to the ownership of a successful and growing business for Jake Hepfler, who has been honored as the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus by the Chippewa Valley Technical College Alumni Association. Also honored is Rebecca Merryfield, an investigator and community service officer for the Dunn County Sheriff's Office, who is the 2020 Outstanding Recent Alumnus award winner.

Xcel Energy has been named CVTC’s 2020 Proven Business Partner.

Hepler, the owner of H & R Electric in Chippewa Falls, is a 2006 graduate of the CVTC Inside Electrical Worker Apprenticeship program.

“I started working at H & R Electric as summer help in high school and figured out that was what I wanted to do,” Hepfler said. “After graduation, I worked for them full time and enrolled as an apprentice in the CVTC program. We had good instructors and a lot of hands-on training.”

After the five-year apprenticeship, Hepfler continued to work for H & R electric and took over ownership after the previous owner retired in 2014. Hepfler had one employee at the time, but now has about 20, including four currently in the CVTC Electrician Apprenticeship program and eight CVTC graduates. In 2017, he purchased a building northeast of Chippewa Falls and is adding on to the facility this spring. H&R Electric provides a full range of residential, commercial and industrial electrical services and recently added a control panel shop.

As a member of the Wisconsin Joint Electrician Apprenticeship Committee, overseeing the application process and monitoring the progress of apprentices, Jake continues to work closely with CVTC. In the community, he coaches girls basketball and softball and is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Merryfield is a 2017 graduate of the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy. She is an investigator and community service officer for the Dunn County Sheriff's Office. Merryfield says she has a passion for helping children through tough times, which led her to become a respite foster care provider. She is a leader to girls in her DARE classes, showing them that they too can pursue a job in law enforcement.

“The Law Enforcement Academy at CVTC definitely gave me hands-on experience in this profession,” Merryfield said. “The instructors were phenomenal. They educated us from their experience, which made my transition into law enforcement a lot easier. I really wanted to be a part of the community and give back how I could through my profession.”

“Xcel Energy has been a valued partner of CVTC for decades, dating back to the times of the first electrification of the area,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “In recent times, their assistance has been invaluable as we enhance our energy-related programs and start new ones.”

Xcel Energy has representation on multiple CVTC program advisory committees that work to ensure the knowledge and skills taught are meeting employers’ needs. When CVTC started a Gas Utility Construction & Service program last year, Xcel Energy was instrumental in its design. The company was also a major supporter of the campaign that led to construction of the Energy Education Center.

The company funds multiple scholarships through the CVTC Foundation, Inc., and provides matching funds on others. The company has helped sponsor the Alumni Association Spring Gala for many years.

“We depend on CVTC graduates,” said Mark Stoering, president of Xcel Energy Wisconsin and Michigan. “To have partners that can provide capable employees, quality employees, employees who will stay with you is really a valuable asset.”

The awards are presented annually at the Alumni Association Spring Gala, scheduled for April 2 this year, but postponed due to pandemic crisis.