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.”

While the electrical industry throughout the U.S. is brimming with opportunity, the field is facing a problem. In a study by the Conference Board, the electrical industry is struggling to fill its rosters. Skilled electrical workers are in high demand, but few people are answering the call, and the shortage is only expected to get worse.

In a 2017 nationwide survey by Klein Tools, that produces tools for electrical workers, it was reported that:

  • 56 percent of electricians noticed more workers leaving the field over the past few years, an increase from the 44 percent in 2015.
  • Almost two-thirds of electricians who have less than 20 years of experience have seen an increase in experienced electricians leaving the field, with a significant increase among those with 10-19 years of experience.
  • Forty percent of electricians are concerned that there will not be enough qualified workers available over the next five to 10 years.

These findings suggest that the industry currently has fewer experienced electricians working on job sites and there are not enough new workers to fill the shortage. This could cause issues for commercial developers and general contractors who have deadlines to meet.

Read the article in full at Portland Business Journal.

This summer, several NECA contractors hosted internships for Oregon State University students.  Over the weeks, the interns supported project management staff while learning estimating, scheduling, how to process submittals, cost management, and construction oversight.  They worked with various individuals within the companies to learn the different aspects of their operations.

This year’s group was:

  • Jonathan Balcom with OEG
  • Zachery Holmes with OEG
  • Andy Hua with OEG
  • Carlie Stickler with OEG
  • Mitchell Baertlein with Rosendin
  • Kyle Coleman with Rosendin
  • Jake Rembolt with E.C.
  • Matt Rosa with E.C.
  • Michael Schumacher with E.C.

OSU students who participate in the NECA internships have very positive internship experiences and most usually pursue full-time employment with an electrical contractor after graduation.

interns

(Portland, Ore.) The National Electrical Contractors Association and International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker’s Electrical Training Center (NIETC) conducted their first State Approved Pre-apprenticeship program as part of a grant-funded opportunity through the national Electrical Training Alliance. The funding is part of the overall American Apprenticeshippre-apprentices-2 Initiative from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The program is focused on providing career opportunities to underrepresented populations, which includes women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.

Pre-Apprentices in the program attended seven weeks of classroom and lab training, five days a week, for six hours a day. Upon completion of the classroom training, they worked as material handlers with a Training Agent for a minimum of two weeks for an on-the-job experience.

The program started on May 19 with 19 pre-apprentices enrolled, made up 10 women, some of who were minorities, 10 minorities, and three veterans. All 19 completed the program on July 25, with 18 moving on to transition into the apprenticeship. Eight have become Inside electrician apprentices and six have become Limited Residential Electrician apprentices, while the remaining four will become inside electrician apprentices upon successful completion of the applicant aptitude test.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better class,” said Bridget Quinn, the Workforce Development Coordinator at the Training Center. “The pre-apprentices were enthusiastic and diligent, despite the heavy course load and the fact that many were also working almost full-time jobs.”

NECA/IBEW Local 48 and the training center are featured in an article in this month’s Oregon Business Magazine.  You can see the story online here.

“A diverse workforce and a diverse leadership team is key to the success of the IBEW.” – Keith Edwards, Former Business Manager of Local 48 (and first ever African American IBEW Business Manager). Check out IBEW Hour Power’s video “Committed to Diversity.” http://www.ibewhourpower.com/ibew-local-48-committed-to-diversity/

NECA/IBEW 48 is a proud sponsor of the inaugural Portland Winter Light Festival – February 3-6. It is an outdoor, community celebration illuminating the city with installations by premier light artists and designers. Hosted by OMSI, no tickets are needed for this event simply show up and enjoy the fun! http://pdxwlf.com/