Learn to Estimate at Your Own Pace

We have done it again with another transformation of the Candels Electrical Estimating Apprenticeship Program. In past semesters, we noticed a trend. Some students would want constant support and feedback, some would want little to no feedback and then there were always those few that fell somewhere in the middle. It was right then that we were asking ourselves how we could best accommodate these three distinct groups. Why would someone who wanted little to no support be paying the same amount as another person who is getting weekly 1-on-1 training sessions? The answer is… they shouldn’t!

The solution came to us and it felt like it was in front of us all along. Why were we deciding what you needed? The program now allows you, the student, to pick whatever level of support you want and the tuition cost would be based on that decision. Each student still gets a Course Workbook, 6-month PlanSwift license, and regular feedback on quizzes/assignments. The different tuition plans are broken out by email-only support, email plus weekly group office hours, or all that plus individual, weekly 1-on-1 support. The response we have gotten has been tremendous. Did I mention the virtual student machines loaded with all the industry-leading software?

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our new and improved program, you can learn more and enroll online by clicking here. Be sure to use Promo Code SOCIAL500 to save $500 on any of the single-pay tuition plans. For any questions, please feel free to call us during business hours at (877) CANDELS or email us at [email protected].

As always, happy estimating and please stay safe!

Electrical Estimating Training for Real-World Results

With four successful electrical estimating training sessions under their belts, Linda and Marc Candels are ready to kick off 2019 with their fifth Electrical Estimating Training and Apprenticeship which starts on January 29.

The Candels Electrical Training Academy teaches the art and science of electrical estimating. The four-month session covers a wide range of topics as it dives into great detail about electrical estimating. The Candels team builds the foundation to each student’s estimating experience by thoroughly reviewing estimating theory. The estimator’s role, building construction types, labor units, material pricing, specification review, and drawing review are discussed in detail. All training is then be put into practice via student projects that will be completed during the semester. There is no other program around of its kind! In four months, each student should be able to function as a junior level estimator.

Vice President and co-owner Linda Candels says it’s fairly simple to get started in this field. With a background in marketing analysis and management, she applied her expertise of seeking similarities and differences to her new field: Electrical Estimating. Without any specific background in electrical estimating, Linda said, “All you need is aptitude and attitude. If students are engaged and participate in class, they can succeed.”

Linda’s 15-year electrical estimating career alongside her husband, co-owner and President Marc Candels speaks for itself. Linda and Marc take the business of estimating to heart – they’ve been in business for almost as long as they’ve been married. How many spouses can live and work together for more than a decade? They truly care about the industry and want the industry to move forward in a positive direction—and their Estimating Academy demonstrates this in spades.

The Candels estimating team welcomes all levels of estimators. “Company owners also participate. They know the business but realize they need that formal detailed training in estimating,” Linda said.

About the Classes

Classes are held online twice a week via live webinar. Instructors are available to answer questions during the webinar, plus the webinars are recorded for reference at any point in time.

Samantha Kosteck Nagy, a project manager and estimator with Hy-Power Electric Co., was thoroughly satisfied with the course. “For the amount of time this course lasted, it was perfect for me – not rushed. They provided a syllabus that we followed throughout the course, too. This helped keep all of us on track.” And in a somewhat male-dominated field, it’s refreshing to see more women make electrical estimating their career.

Additionally, the Candels team conducts unlimited one-on-one training outside of regular class hours. This is a major advantage to taking this specific training with the Candels.

Samantha took advantage of that. “One-on-one training with Linda was KEY. This was my favorite part of the course by far, and also for me, the most informative…this was so incredibly helpful.”

Butch Naumann agrees. Butch has been an estimator for 14 years and felt he was missing something. He utilized the one-on-one sessions several times. “Linda and Marc are phenomenal. Marc helped me with ConEst and PlanSwift and took the time to help me with other projects.” Butch is owner and employer of five at BN Electric & Communications in Pittsburgh, PA.

Linda and Marc Candels are highly invested in not only the industry but leading their students to a path of success. “We want to elevate the industry because people are bidding jobs below cost.” The Candels want to teach electrical estimators that when they see a low bid, they need to look at the true cost of a project.

Linda adds, “Consider the quality of work you’ll be getting, the experience, when you should walk away – no one ever tells them that stuff. We want to elevate the industry so projects are priced appropriately and estimators do not fall prey to low bids.”

Why Should I Take this Course?

Linda and Marc hold the unwavering belief: “Solid theory combined with practice. The more you learn, the more value you have to employers and yourself. It’s a relatively small investment for potential lifelong earning capacity.”

And Butch couldn’t agree more.

“Linda and Marc make it very easy and fun. Not only did I have them to go to, but I also had the classes to go back to [online]. Before I took the classes, I wasn’t bidding the type of bidding we’re doing now. The classes saved me so much time. It’s worth every dime. The software programs cut my estimating time and I’m able to bid more work more frequently. We have doubled the work we’ve bid and double our revenue.” Butch now plans to expand his business.

Samantha says, “We were able to contact Marc and Linda at any time to either help us prepare our bids, answer questions, or go over our bids. They were extremely flexible, accommodating and responsive. This course has provided me with more knowledge and tools to use. I am definitely in a better position after taking the course than I was prior to taking the course. I feel more confident and secure in my estimating capabilities…I accomplish more work in less time.”

Job Prospects

Employers look at real-world experience. Depending upon where you live, with the right training, electrical estimators can earn upwards of $250,000/year without an official college degree.

The right training and real-world experience will guide you to a path of success. And this is exactly what the Candels team provides.

Samantha sums it up well. “I would highly recommend this course. I have been in this industry for a long time and I have not come across a more extensive or thorough course.”

Want more details? See below and don’t miss out on this unique and fun opportunity.

Space is limited! Register now to secure your spot!

Where it all starts

My first day in the apprenticeship program was pretty easy. Linda and Marc reviewed the course materials, course objectives, and student expectations. They also went over the history of Candels and their experience in the electrical estimating field. Candels experience ranges from commercial, industrial, healthcare, educational, and other projects such as switchyards, airports and railway stations, water and waste water treatment plants and more!

To be successful in this class I know that I have to be prepared for each class, complete all assignments, and actively participate in each class.

I learned what an estimator does and the qualities required for an individual to be a successful estimator. To be a good estimator you have to be organized, detail oriented, technically proficient, patient, and most of all confident.

We also reviewed the members of a design and construction team and their roles within a project. It was good to learn who the key players are in a project. Overall I think it was a good introduction to the class and what to expect.


Bidding and Bonding Essentials: When and Why?

If and When to submit an Electrical EstimateYou know your business, and your potential customers know you. The next step is looking at jobs available to bid and the companies soliciting your submission. The number of bidders, the “signals” you are receiving from those seeking a proposal, and whether you have the tools, equipment, bonding or pre-approval required are items you must consider before you even think about starting your take-off.

Available jobs can be found on various bid boards and websites and networking with general contractors. Once you have found one or several jobs that peak your interest, pay attention! Review the drawings. What is the quality? Are there “engineering holes” because the project is still in the “design” phase and the contractor may just be looking for a budget price?

Understanding Scope of Work

Do you understand the scope of the work and do you have experience in this type of work? If not, you may be open to potential pitfalls that could cost escalated labor or material costs, or both. Do you have the proper human resources, tools, and equipment to complete this type of work? Renting or purchasing certain items will certainly raise your job costs.

Which general contractors are bidding the job? Do you have a relationship with them? Remember, you may need to submit several bids to a GC before you are awarded a job. Beware of providing “check prices” too! If the project is a public bid opening, it will be awarded to the lowest bidder provided they meet pre-approval and bonding requirements if any.

Consider how many electrical contractors are bidding. If there are several electricals bidding, the plans are marginal, or you do not have a relationship with the GC, walk away! Spend some time looking for projects that suit your company! And time is a critical factor! Often job schedules are extremely tight. As a general rule, the more condensed the schedule and the more trades on site, the less productive your labor will be. Potential overtime wages and labor inefficiencies should be factored into your proposal.

Back to relationships again. Establish relationships with your vendors…lighting, gear, fire alarm, ensuring that you get the “right whisper” number on bid day. Many times a job has been won or lost because of the “play” in quotes on bid day.


Finally, some critical factors: Does the job require a bid or performance bond? Bonding capacity is a key part of a contractor’s portfolio which minimizes the financial risk faced by project owners and developers.

  • A performance bond provides a legal guarantee that the contractor holding the bond will perform specified work or face financial penalties.
  • Bid bonds guarantee that the bidder will sign a contract if awarded the job and will uphold his price.
  • A payment bond protects the owner if a subcontractor fails to pay its suppliers avoiding mechanics liens.

Make sure to give your bonding agent plenty of time to prepare the bond so you can meet your bid day requirements!

Beyond bonds, many projects require pre-approval to not only work at a site but to submit a bid. Don’t wait until the last minute to address this issue, as there could be a mountain of paperwork to complete, which may require the assistance of your accountant or bonding agency.

By paying attention, you will have a better handle on choosing the right jobs to bid. Bidding smarter will give your company the edge.

Meet the Candels Team

The Candels Electrical Estimators Team is full of real people. We aren’t a faceless corporate machine or a one-man-band. We are a team of real people ready to help you with all of your estimating needs. We’re here to help!

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The Estimating Process – It Starts Earlier than You Think!

Starting - The Estimating ProcessWhen do you think the estimating process begins?  This article is the first of a 12-part series on the estimating process.  In starting the New Year, it is appropriate to examine the processes we complete but might not give much thought to, such as estimating.

Many of you might think that the estimating process starts with the take-off, but that is step 3 or 4.  The estimating process starts way before any actual “estimating” or “counting” begins, and certainly before you peruse the bid boards to see what is out there to bid.

Include your overhead costs in your bid

To get to the heart of the matter, you must know YOUR BUSINESS!  Knowing your business comprises of many things.  First, if you do not have an accountant or a relationship with your accountant, start the new year right and establish a relationship, because your accountant can tell you a lot of things about your business that you may not know. When I work with contractors to put together a bid, I often get a blank stare or silence on the other end of the phone when we get to the “overhead” part of the proposal.  When bidding a job, you should cover all costs, both direct, or those related directly to the job, such a commodity material, labor, quotes, direct job expenses, and the like, and indirect, such as your overhead.  If you do not know your overhead, how do you know that you are indeed covering your cost?  The process of determining (and changing) overhead need not be daunting, but this information is critical to the estimating process.

Other things should be considered before bidding a job.  What is your labor force like?  Are you a union or non-union shop?  If you are a union shop, then your field work is dependent on available workers when you call the union hall.  If you are a non-union contractor, you have a staff of electricians.  What is their experience level?  If you, your foreman, and your electricians have absolutely no expertise in a particular type of work, then you must think twice before bidding it.  A good example is a waste water treatment plant.  It’s not clean work, no pun intended.  It is full of a PVC-coated rigid conduit, explosion proof fittings, and a lot of equipment, definitely not “learning ground” for any contractor.

Speaking of which, do you know what your firm is “good at?”  Do you know what size project is most profitable for your company? Following that same school of thought, do you have the tools, equipment, supervision, and infrastructure for the work you bid?  Again, work with your accountant if you are overwhelmed with answers to your questions.  No sense chasing work which will not ultimately turn a profit for your company.

How about bonding capacity?  Many contractors wait until they are knee deep in an estimate to realize they don’t know if they can get a bond for the work.  How about project labor agreements?  If you have never bid a job with a PLA on it, are you familiar with the paperwork you will have to submit for the certified payroll?

I have given you a lot to think about.  Most of it probably isn’t new to you.  However, as we begin a new year, it is a good time to pause, reflect and evaluate what is and is not working.

In our next post, we’ll discuss the next step in the estimating process: Finding jobs to bid.