Amid the wave of baby boomers retiring and the need for new infrastructure, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 6% growth for journeyman lineworkers through 2031—about 23,500 openings per year. Working to fill those openings is the Veteran’s Electrical Entry Program (VEEP).
Developed by the Electrical Training Alliance (ETA) in 2018, VEEP connects veterans and transitioning military personnel with apprenticeship opportunities in the electrical field. It is a pre-apprenticeship program for lineworkers and electricians.
About 250,000 veterans transition from military to civilian life each year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
VEEP provides rigorous hands-on training to veterans only and offers participants direct entry as second-year apprentices at many of nine Area-wide Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (AJATC) locations throughout the country.
“As far as helping us to achieve workplace diversity in the electrical field, this is a great program, because we’re able to draw people from all walks of life,” said Jason Iannelli, director of outside curriculum for ETA.
VEEP around the country
In Fall 2020, Lazy Q Ranch in LaGrange, Texas, became the first training program to provide 14 weeks of VEEP line construction training. Lazy Q’s 2,300-acre training campus is owned by Quanta Services Inc., a Fortune 500 specialty construction contractor based in Houston.
Covering a variety of construction settings, the school features on-site power generation, substation labs, pole yards, transmission towers and a research setting dedicated to developing new tools and best practices.
“It’s a fantastic site for highest-level training,” Iannelli said. Lazy Q offers two sessions per year.
The Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program, Indianola, Iowa, signed on to serve as a second VEEP location, with one session per year starting in June 2023. Class size is anticipated to grow as demand increases.
In accepting participants for VEEP, the ETA facilitates an agreement for direct entry into an AJATC within the jurisdiction of the veteran’s choosing. All nine AJATCs have VEEP graduates working in their areas.
“VEEP graduates can be slotted in through a direct entry process at a higher step in the apprenticeship, since they’ve already done more work than somebody off the street when they come in,” said Kevin Moran, executive director at American Line Builders. ALB represents NECA contractors doing outside electrical construction in the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring vets into the industry because they’ve served their country and there’s a major need for qualified manpower,” Moran said.
“The strength of veterans is they’re used to waking up early and working out in the elements, which can’t always be said of others who apply,” Iannelli said. “Coming to VEEP, their qualities include a strong work ethic, the ability to follow orders, understanding the value of teamwork and the ability to adapt to different environments and weather circumstances.”
VEEP graduates bring the added value of OSHA safety training, CDL licensing and training as climbers, which means “they are more qualified and productive starting day one on the job,” Iannelli said.
The VEEP website features a discussion of line work training, offering insights from Iannelli; David Ball, director of the Quanta Electrical Lineworker Program at Lazy Q Ranch; Madison Jefferson, veteran initiative advisor; Robbie Foxen, executive director at Missouri Valley Line Constructors; and Kevin Castle, director at the American Line Builders Apprenticeship and Training program at the time of writing. All acknowledge that line work is a good fit for veterans who are motivated to help people, used to working in teams and taking on daring missions. To listen to that discussion, visit https://in2veep.com/military-members.
VEEP for inside electrical work also is gaining popularity, according to Greg McMurphy, a curriculum specialist at ETA who oversees the VEEP pre-apprentice program for electricians.
So far, participating JATCs include the Alaska Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Trust in Anchorage, and California NECA-IBEW JATCs affiliated with Local 477 in San Bernardino, 440 in Riverside, 11 in Los Angeles and 569 in San Diego.
While the lineworker program only applies to veterans, VEEP for pre-apprentice electricians also coordinates with leadership at military bases to recruit active service members in their final six months of service. Training counts in lieu of daily duty requirements and must start within the final 180 days of service.
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About The Author
DeGrane is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She has covered electrical contracting, renewable energy, senior living and other industries with articles published in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and trade publications. Reach her at [email protected].