Can Good Jobs Really Change Lives?

Lydia Shoaf

After struggling with drug addiction, Lawrence Williamson moved from Florida to Colorado, in hopes of making a fresh start. “But that was hard to do with an addiction,” Williamson remembers. He started robbing banks up and down the Front Range to pay for his drug habit, for which he served ten years in federal prison, from ages 26 to 36. 

Upon release in 2016, Williamson ended up at a federal halfway house, determined to rebuild his life. He’d talked to his brother, an electrician, who convinced him to join the trade. “The only problem was, I had no experience and a terrible record to go with it,” says Williamson.

Weifield Group Electrical Contractors was located just down the road from the halfway house. The company believes in giving second chances to — and training — individuals with less-than-spotless records. “We like to bring in people that are completely green, and don’t know the trade, so we can train them in our process,” said Karla Nugent, chief revenue officer and founding partner of Weifield Group. Nugent and other company executives welcome employees like Williamson who are ready to make a change in their life, and have seen the company thrive because of them. 

I talked with Williamson to learn more about his story and how Weifield Group’s leadership affected his life.

Denver Institute for Faith & Work: What is your current role at Weifield and your main job responsibilities? 

Lawrence Williamson: I’m a project engineer for Weifield. I started as an electrician [five years ago] and was brought in the office a year and a half ago. We basically coordinate [electrical] jobs from start to finish. I make sure we stay on schedule, have all the materials we need, and make sure we meet certain specifications. I deal with the financial aspects of staying on budget, saving money, and being more productive.

DIFW: What was the process for you to get a job at Weifield Group?

LW: I didn’t have a vehicle at the time, so I looked up electrical contractors near me. I turned in a resume that wasn’t very impressive and left to catch my bus. I’d walked about two blocks when I received a call, asking if I could turn around to do an interview. I literally ran back to the office. 

I met with Brad Boswell, [safety manager] at Weifield. He asked me the normal questions during an interview, but I knew at some point I would have to reveal my past to him. I waited for a pause in the conversation and dove in to tell him that I was on parole. He sat back in his chair and looked at me. It was only a few seconds, but it felt like the longest pause in my life. He told me, “I don’t care too much about your past, I care about your future. Do you care about your future?” It took all I had in me to not break down in tears. 

DIFW: What makes Weifield different from other companies you’ve worked for?

LW: I started in the field as an electrical apprentice and the first thing [the company does] is pay for and enroll you in an accredited school to further your training. Weifield fully invests in their employees. They take great pride in training and promoting from within.

Working for Weifield has given me direction and purpose. They push me to challenge myself and grow, and for the first time, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction. When I got out of prison after 10 years, I felt a lot of uncertainty and fear. When they gave me a chance, a lot of that fear started to fade away.

You can’t beat the company culture here. All my friends are Weifield people and my best friend just got his Journeyman Electrician license here. I feel I am indebted to this company, and they have my loyalty for sure.

DIFW: How would you describe your relationship with your manager and company leadership?

LW: One of the perks when working with Weifield is that management gets personally involved with your development. Coming up through the trade, I had a mentor, no matter what job site I was on. Now that I’m in the office and learning a new aspect of the business, that same mentality applies. My manager not only takes the time to make sure that I receive the training I need to further my career, but also takes the time to get to know me on a personal level.  

We see the four owners, Pete, James, Karla, and Seth, throughout the day. They ask you how your family is doing and how you are spending your weekend. I know them personally, and all four always have their doors open, no matter who it is, from first-year apprentices on up. They make this company feel like family.

Today, Williamson is happily married, and is the father of a 2-year-old boy. His family recently joined a church near Weifield’s headquarters. He is 12 years sober.

Hear from Weifield Group founding partner Karla Nugent on how good jobs can change lives, at Business for the Common Good on March 26. 2021.


Lydia Shoaf

Lydia is an intern with Denver Institute for Faith & Work, and a freelance writer and editor.