It’s been eight years since major energy legislation was passed, but current House and Senate proposals that would strengthen America’s infrastructure and increase energy efficiency are exciting prospects for electrical contractors. We know that investment in energy, transportation, clean water and waterways infrastructure is essential to keeping us in business, our employees working and the economy running smoothly.
This spring, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony dealing with nearly two dozen potential pieces of energy legislation. These proposals address a wide range of subjects, including federal energy management, building retrofits, appliance efficiency standards, efficiency grants, coordination between agencies and programs, water utility efficiency, and alternative fuel vehicles. Additional measures on electric grid modernization and energy storage are likely to be introduced in the Senate within the next few months.
Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working to maximize our nation’s energy potential, strengthen energy security and keep energy prices affordable with a plan called the “Architecture of Abundance.” Recognizing that modern technology and American ingenuity have unlocked a wealth of energy resources, this plan has four pillars: modernizing energy infrastructure, developing a better energy workforce, using energy internationally for diplomatic purposes, and increasing both energy efficiency and government accountability in energy. Bills focused on attaining these goals are expected to be introduced in the House before the end of the year.
As always, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) will do everything possible to secure effective energy legislation. In fact, our association is already working hard for a broad energy measure that puts first things first. When the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on its bill in the making, Title II, 21st Century Workforce (legislation directing the Secretary of Energy to establish a comprehensive program to improve education and training for energy and manufacturing-related jobs), we made sure a NECA contractor was there to tell the lawmakers how NECA and its partners do it. Rick Jarvis, vice president of field construction with California-based Morrow-Meadows Corp., did the honors.
He told the committee how NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) founded the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) in 1941, and it served for more than 73 years as the training arm of our joint industry. The NJATC elevated more than 350,000 electrical apprentices to journeyman status through hundreds of local affiliate programs without imposing any cost on taxpayers.
The committee also found that, in recent years, the NJATC became a diverse alliance of NECA electrical contractors, IBEW local unions, industry training partners and manufacturers, community colleges and universities, and public and private school systems. The uniform standards that the NJATC developed and used to select and train thousands of qualified men and women each year have evolved into new National Guideline Apprenticeship Standards that provide greater latitude to local training centers. Jarvis told them how and why the NJATC transitioned into the new Electrical Training ALLIANCE last summer.
Today, we have more than 300 IBEW/NECA joint apprenticeship training centers in the United States and Canada. Each center’s core curriculum establishes the foundation of skills necessary to be an IBEW/NECA journey-level worker, while the advanced-studies curriculum creates alternative-training paths. The training centers can combine classroom teaching with the online delivery of some instruction, providing those centers with opportunities to select advanced courses needed to prepare electrical workers to meet local-market demands. The Electrical Training ALLIANCE recognizes that being an electrician in rural Indiana is not the same as being an electrician in Las Vegas.
At www.electricaltrainingalliance.org, whether you’re an electrical contractor, an electrical worker or an electrical-worker-to-be, you can find abundant information about our approach to training.
If you’re a NECA contractor planning to attend NECA 2015 San Francisco (Oct. 3–6), keep in mind that convention offerings include a high-level overview of the core curriculum used to target apprentice training to meet local market needs, hybrid apprenticeship and other issues relevant to workforce development and labor relations. I urge all NECA contractors to keep up with these issues and to exercise your leadership in workforce training by getting involved with local training programs.
Of course, I urge all industry participants, regardless of NECA affiliation, to take advantage of the dozens of learning opportunities offered at our big happening in San Francisco. Beginning on page 97, this magazine highlights the details. More information and online registration are available at www.necaconvention.org. Start planning your company’s participation now. It could take a while!
About The Author
David A. Hardt is the current president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and contributes the President's Desk column monthly. He took office in January 2015 and will serve a three-year term.