From being bused to a previously all-white school as a young student to having two foremen actively try to cause her physical harm, the days of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 business representative Donna Hammond experiencing overt racism are mostly in the past. Hammond hopes that sharing the experiences she’s had throughout her life and in the construction industry will help illuminate the wiring for a brighter future.

These days, part of her work as a business representative serving the greater Portland area is to address harmful biases that interfere with workforce cohesion. She abides by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctrine that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.”

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In January 2020, a new Maternity Benefit Plan went into effect that was made available by IBEW Local 48 in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Harrison Electrical Workers Trust Fund. To our knowledge, this is the first of its kind in the nation. Since the plan went into effect at the beginning of 2020, 25 individuals have utilized this benefit.

Designed with a goal to retain women in the workforce, the plan offers 13 weeks of paid leave before a doctor-certified due date and 13 weeks after, doubling the previous maternity leave offering. Members receive $800 a week in time loss benefits in addition to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. The trust also pays health insurance premiums, which means recipients get free health coverage for their entire family.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Kaitlyn Kettner grew up dreaming of becoming a nurse, but the tradeswoman actually started laying the foundation early on for what would be her career as an electrician.

“All my life, I’ve been curious how things work,” said Kettner.

In addition to taking a welding course in high school, Kettner also helped her father, a handyman, with various jobs around the house. From doing drywall to painting the house’s exterior, she became adept at different skills. At 16 years old, she received her first car, with the understanding that she was responsible for fixing any problems that arose — with the guidance of her dad.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Safety has always been a priority in Portland’s construction industry but Covid-19 caught the industry, and the world, by surprise. It was only one year ago our training center had to close and the 2020 spring quarter canceled to comply with executive orders. Despite the ongoing safety and health challenges, the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center completed a successful training year for over 1,000 apprentices.

As safety director at the training center, I attend the monthly Construction Safety Summit meetings where contractors across building trades meet to discuss safety issues. The monthly meetings started long before the pandemic, and thank goodness they did. The collaboration within the industry has been vital during this uncertain time.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Work hard, be on time, and follow through were values that Clay Kingston’s father, a first-generation IBEW electrician, instilled in him growing up. Kingston saw firsthand what a career in the trades can provide for a family and for retirement. He decided to follow his father’s path and join the union trades. Now, he is a fully licensed journeymen electrician with 23 years of experience in the field with EC Electric.

Over the course of his five-year apprenticeship at the NECA/IBEW Local 48 Training Center, Kingston had to fully commit to his trade. “Knowing how to take direction and set aside past inconsistencies in your work habits is essential,” said Kingston. “However, if you work hard and set a good precedent, you’ll always have work, even when its slow.”

The electrical industry is not a static field – technology is always advancing, electrical codes and regulations change, and safety practices are constantly refined. After becoming licensed journeymen, electricians are required to take additional courses to stay current in the latest practices and training.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

When Dakotah Quinn was 17, she moved out of her parents’ home and in with her best friend and her friend’s husband – by chance, her friend’s husband was an electrical apprentice. While she knew nothing about the trades initially, financial independence has always been a priority for her as she thought about her future.

“I didn’t want to have debt or go to college for some degree and then find out I hated it,” Quinn said. “I had nothing to lose doing the apprenticeship and the license gave me a way to pay for college if the trades didn’t work out.”

Now 25, Quinn is one of the youngest foremen at Merit Electric, where she has found her niche in multifamily apartment complexes and retirement homes.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

The NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center (NIETC) restarted apprentice classes on Monday, June 22 after a three month pause due to Covid-19. Training Center staff has been working since mid-March to prepare for this semester.

“When we started planning, we didn’t know the end result of the virus, but we knew what might happen. We headed down that road, understanding that our planning might end up being a wasted effort,” stated NIETC executive director Rod Belisle. “But here we are. I am confident that it was all worthwhile.”

Apprentices spend one day a week in class for 11 weeks, twice a year. The other four days of those weeks are spent on jobsites learning under the supervision of journeymen. Depending on the program they are in, they are enrolled in either three, four or five years of classroom and jobsite training. As a result of this pause, all NIETC classes have been delayed a semester.

Classrooms are prepared so that all students will maintain social distancing while in class. The training center will utilize its largest rooms and even the auditorium as a classroom to accomplish that. Currently there are 1,005 apprentices in the three programs.

“We just completed new construction that added two new classrooms and without them, we may not have had the necessary space,” Belisle said. “We are either lucky or great at planning.”

“One-way traffic will be used in and out of classrooms,” said NIETC safety director Barry Moreland. “Many labs have been modified to reduce the number of students in the lab at a given time, and we have had to put up barriers or relocate lab materials for further safety.”

Moreland added, “We have had to address some basic policies, such as not allowing class-day changes because the number of students in class will be specifically allocated, and we can’t allow overflow like we may have done in the past. Scheduling is our biggest challenge and highest priority.”

The training center will still be closed to the outside public. Entrance and exit policies have been established for students, along with health questionnaires and contact tracing forms that must be signed every day of class.

The training center also offers continuing education programs for journeymen, but for now all in-person classes have been canceled. Because of the importance of these programs, the Zoom video meeting platform has been used to conduct some classes, but enrollment must be limited. NIETC hopes to expand these opportunities over time.

“We have prepared our training center at the highest level possible with complete regard for safety, first and foremost, without sacrificing quality of training. This creates safety both in the classroom and in the workplace as apprentices and journeymen continue their essential jobs,” said Belisle.

NECA-IBEW (the National Electical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 48 has expanded its time loss benefit with Harrison Trust to provide pregnancy benefit to members through their third trimester. The new benefit rolled out on January 1, 2020, and this unique partnership between management and labor is setting a new standard for others to follow.

A pregnant woman who stops working within 13 weeks prior to the doctor-certified projected due date will be paid $800 per week in time loss benefits. Disability is not a requirement, and the member’s health care will be paid without reducing her hour bank.

These benefits will also continue 13 weeks after the birth of the child, for a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. All members who qualify for this new Harrison benefit, regardless of classification, get the full weekly time loss amount.

The Trust will also pay the monthly health insurance premiums, so that the member will receive six months of free health insurance coverage during that time for their families.

The primary intention of this benefit is to empower pregnant members to do what they think is best with respect to working while pregnant and while recovering from pregnancy. The coverage is offered as an acknowledgement that being in the final trimester and working on a construction job can be very challenging. This also acknowledges the importance of the first three months of a baby’s life, and addresses how difficult it is to find infant care during the hours an electrician works.

“I’m so glad to see NECA/IBEW are supporting women who work in the trades,” said Commissioner of Labor and Industries Val Hoyle, “Increasing the amount of protected time off women can take while pregnant and after childbirth is a great investment. It’s good for women’s careers, good for families, and good for our workforce.”

This past week, Rosendin Electric partnered with the Hillsboro Chamber’s School to Career program to teach high school seniors from the Hillsboro and Beaverton school districts about the electrical industry.

On January 8th and 9th, the 18 students who attended the Early Learning Opportunity (ELO) were able to explore each department within Rosendin Electric at Rosendin’s Hillsboro office, including Project Management, Estimating, Building Information Modeling (BIM), IT/Technologies, Engineering, Pre-Fabrication, Business Development and more.

The day was not just about taking a tour through the facilities, but about receiving hands-on learning from those in the field. Each day started with a “Stretch & Flex” routine, an informal all-staff meeting that kick starts the day with a safety and health meeting as well as light stretching. The Stretch & Flex routine gave the students a glimpse into the electrician world and exposed them to the more active learning and working environment they have the option to receive.

“We know a lot of these students are going to want to, or are at least thinking of becoming an electrician,” said Courtney Hron, Business Development Manager at Rosendin Electric. “We’re going to provide them with the tools and resources to get them there, telling them ‘here’s the IBEW, here’s how you can join,’ and really just pointing them in the right direction, because a lot of it is already public knowledge.”

Programs that provide ELOs to students can help them make an informed decision before they decide whether to spend thousands of dollars at a university, studying classes for a major they might not even keep.

“I think for a lot of these students, money is a big driving factor,” Hron said. “Within a few years, some of these students could be making nearly 100 grand a year as an electrician.”

For high schools and parents, programs like School to Career help to bridge the gap between students and the career paths they may want to pursue.

“From 9th through 11th grade, students will go to some of the 100-120 different career days we host a year,” said Tabitha McCampbell a School to Career Coordinator. “By their senior year, they will have narrowed down what they want to do their 15-hour experience in, fill out a request form, and we place them in a group ELO that is related to what they are interested in.”

A group ELO will include a range of different activities, speakers, and field trips, all focused around a specific career area. According to McCampbell, School to Career was able to do the entire 15-hour program at Rosendin over two days because Rosendin was able to teach the students a wide variety of things, including being an electrician, engineering, building information modeling, and more.

“We rely a lot on our partnerships with companies and organizations to make this program work,” McCampbell said. “They volunteer their time and resources to help out the students.”

McCampbell said that they plan to continue their great partnership with Rosendin, including at least one annual group ELO at Rosendin.

When Christenson Electric moved to their new headquarters in October 2015, they were asked if they wanted to carry on the tradition of providing meals to Wilkes Elementary families in need, a program that had been started by the former owners of their Gresham headquarters.

For those at Christenson Electric, the decision to carry on the tradition was a no-brainer, and they have since grown the program.

This year, Wilkes Elementary had decided to restructure the Wilkes Holiday Pantry Drive said Pedro Villagomez, the Community School Site Manager.

“Originally it was a partnership where Christenson was providing food boxes and gifts to families, but this year we decided it was going to be a little different in order to reach more families,” Villagomez said. “We went from 20 families last year, and we currently have 50 families signed up.”

According to Sarah Shields, the Principal at Wilkes Elementary School, the change has enabled the program to help more families in need.

“The two biggest things people cherished last year was toilet paper and towels,” Shields said. “We realized, these this are expenses, and if you are struggling, a new towel is not something you’re going to go buy because there are other things you have to focus on.”

For the employees at Christenson, a competitive nature to the donations quickly developed.

“Our first year, Good Samaritian was the one that kind of started the competition, by just submitting $200 cash saying, ‘I challenge you job sites, beat this’, and that was two years ago,” Joanne Gaspari, the Human Resources Manager at Christenson Electric, said. “Then last year they drove in with a pickup full of food and said, ‘beat this.’”

According to Gaspari, while the Good Samaritian job site was quiet early on, they ended up donating the most, bringing in over $3,000 of food donations to the Wilkes Holiday Pantry.

In addition to the employees at Christenson Electric, several community partners made donations to the drive as well, including: IBEW Local 48, Local 125, Local NECA leadership, the Grocery Outlet on Division, Mondelez, and many others.

“Each year, IBEW Local 125 looks forward to the opportunity to partner with Christenson Electric,” said Cheryl Arrant from IBEW Local 125. “It is an honor to be able to help families in our community during the Holiday Season.”

In total, there was about $8,000 worth of donations made this year. Christenson Electric and its employees plan to continue the Wilkes Holiday Pantry for years to come, with continued community support throughout the year.

Those at Wilkes Elementary made sure to express their appreciation for all the help and donations they received.

“It is so neat to see the community rally around the school,” said Shields. “There are kids in need here, and it’s pretty great that they do these things for them, it’s very humbling.”