Mentorship is vital for union apprentices to succeed in the construction industry and for companies to retain them. The management at Christenson Electric saw that mentorship provided their apprentices a better experience, and started a mentoring program to heighten the connection between all apprentices and experienced leaders.

“Many apprentices feel they do not have a voice,” said Chad Privratsky, project manager at Christenson Electric Inc. Privratsky also leads Christenson’s mentor program, which provides guidance to apprentices through private conversations, work support and leadership development.

Read the full article at Portland Business Journal.

Diversity, success rates rank higher in union-led apprenticeship programs compared to nonunion programs

Construction is the third fastest growing industry in Oregon, and union-led apprenticeship programs are empowering women and people of color to build skillsets to join the industry.

More opportunities for construction workers are on the horizon, with a continuous rise in labor demand as 17% of the workforce nears retirement. The Oregon Employment Department predicts 11,900 new construction jobs over the next decade.

According to a 2021 research study conducted by Larissa Petrucci, Ph.D., through the University of Oregon’s Labor Education & Research Center, union apprenticeship programs are leading in diversity and showing higher success rates all around compared to nonunion programs, especially for women and people of color.

Read the full article at Portland Business Journal.

IBEW Local 48 recognized three members for heroic actions—for saving the lives of two ironworkers after a roof collapse on a construction project in summer 2020.

At the union’s Dec. 15 meeting, members Kevin Jorgenson and Keoki Hookano each received the IBEW Life Saving Award, and Sergey Elikh received the IBEW Certificate of Recognition. The Life Saving Award is presented by the international union to any member who, by direct personal involvement, saves the life of a fellow human being. The Certificate of Recognition is awarded when a member did not meet the criteria for the Life Saving Award but deserves special recognition for their presence of mind, prompt action and genuine concern for a fellow human being. 

Read the full article at the Northwest Labor Press.

In the electrical industry, which still has a predominantly male workforce, two local women have carved their own paths.

President and co-owner of Christenson Electric, Sonja Rheaume has been with the company for 14 years. Founded in 1945 as a family business, Christenson Electric has changed hands a few times. In 2008, only one year after joining, Rheaume bought the company with CEO Mark Walter. The pair now co-own it along with Walter’s daughter Tristin Boell.

Read the full article in the Portland Business Journal.

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.”

Read the full article on Portland Business Journal.

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.