A major part of the National Electrical Contractors Association’s (NECA) mission is to shine a light on the importance of apprenticeship programs. They are a vibrant force within the electrical construction industry. There are more than 445,000 total apprenticeships across the country, and more are added every day, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
During the first week of November, NECA and a host of other organizations came together to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, led by the DOL. According to a proclamation from President Barack Obama, the purpose of the week was to “support and encourage apprenticeship programs that will help rebuild our middle class” and “rededicate ourselves to educating more of our people, retraining our workforce, and renewing our nation’s promise to put the American dream within the reach of the determined.”
More than 200 events highlighted the positive effect of apprenticeships in the United States. One of those events occurred in Maryland, where the Washington, D.C., NECA chapter and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 26, partnered with the Community Hub for Opportunities in Construction Employment and North America’s Building Trades Unions to host a round-table discussion featuring Labor Secretary Thomas Perez at the Local No. 26 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center (JATC).
Another success story is found in Georgia, where Southeastern Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training (SELCAT), a local educational program, trains a local workforce of linemen—at no cost to taxpayers—while also providing an earn-while-you-learn education. The training center’s main building includes 4,000 square feet of administrative offices. The remaining 8,000 square feet includes two classrooms, a dining hall, a full kitchen and a 24-bed dormitory that gives SELCAT an edge over many facilities. To read more about SELCAT and its work, turn to page 98 of this issue.
Apprenticeships programs are vital to the success of the industry, and that’s why NECA has placed an emphasis on supporting them. In a recent Talent Shortage Survey conducted by ManPower Group, 35 percent of employers surveyed reported difficulty filling jobs because of a lack of available talent. This is the highest shortage since the beginning of the global recession in 2008. There are two groups in the United States where the numbers could easily be targeted for training skilled laborers for excellent employment opportunities: young people and women. NECA and the electrical construction industry will lead the charge in reaching these two groups.
Especially within the industry, employers can apply several strategies to begin solving and ultimately overcoming this talent shortage. We must remain committed to hiring young people and developing their skills. Also, NECA, the IBEW and our JATCs should increase outreach and enlistment opportunities in local high schools, community and technical colleges, and even university settings where placement of future and recent graduates is lacking.
In conjunction with National Apprenticeship Week, NECA and four premier national specialty contracting associations have launched the Construction Employers of America, a joint initiative to coordinate action on construction, workforce and labor issues facing their industries. The group will work to strengthen the construction industry and provide opportunities for top-quality construction workers to learn and maintain the skills they need. With this training, they can deliver highly productive, quality workmanship that provides the best value to project owners while earning high-value compensation and benefits for themselves, their families and their communities.
NECA contractors know that employees are a key part of success, which is why our electrical contractors invest in the nation’s most comprehensive training and apprenticeship programs, compensate our skilled workforce accordingly and provide quality healthcare and retirement benefits. The result is the most skilled and most productive electricians in the nation.