Last November, during a National Day of Service for the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC), members of the Chicago chapter spent an afternoon installing new branch circuitry to serve two stick and 10 MIG welders at the Chicago Women in the Trades (CWIT) training facility.
CWIT encourages women and minorities to join the electrical and other trades by holding educational and demonstration workshops.
With 43 IBEW-affiliated chapters nationwide, EWMC encourages minorities to enter the electrical trade and report incidents of racism that discourage members from thriving.
Prior to EWMC Chicago’s volunteer effort, use of CWIT’s welders would trip a circuit breaker and interrupt welding training sessions, said Renee Jones, CWIT program director. “We really appreciated their help because our funding is not allocated for building repairs, and this would have cost a lot.”
EWMC Chicago chapter members set to work clearing up CWIT’s electrical problems and provided a special learning opportunity for three students from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago.
The two juniors and one senior were among 50 enrolled in the high school’s career and technical education electricity program taught by Latisa Kindred, an IBEW 134 journey-level electrician, CTE electricity instructor at Simeon Career Academy and 20-year supporter of EWMC, as well as a former CWIT board member.
“I’ve always tried to expose my students to the industry as much as possible,” Kindred said. “As a result, they’ve shown a genuine interest in learning the trade.”
“The students were assisting the electricians, handing them tools and materials,” said John Culp, EWMC Chicago chapter president (pictured above). “It was a great opportunity for them and for us as far as bringing a new generation to the trade.”
That fortuitous circumstance was also in keeping with a broader scale EWMC effort endorsed by ret. Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, NECA’s senior vice president of industry development. He is encouraging EWMC chapters to foster relationships with local schools—elementary, middle, high school and colleges—as part of a strategy to diversify the electrical trade and attract skilled workers.
Bailey, the first African-American to command the 1st Marine Division with its 25,000 Marines and Sailors, holds multiple military honors and academic degrees. For the last two years, he has conducted leadership workshops with EWMC chapters. He also served as EWMC’s 2022 annual conference speaker.
“Most schools receive academic funding based on college placement, but not everyone is cut out for college,” Bailey said. “We’re trying to change that dynamic by creating awareness of career opportunities for young people in the electrical field.”
The electrical field offers several career path options—electrician, estimator, project manager—with no resulting college debt, Bailey said. “That’s a good thing, but it’s crucial to make students, parents, teachers and school administrators more aware of these opportunities.”
“A lot of students go into college with the idea that they have no other choice,” Jones said. “They often end up with debt and no further ahead, so it’s always good that young people are presented experiences that enable them to see people working in the trades, making a good living, and with the chance to build a good life.”
Header image: John L. Culp Jr.