Humankind has been aware of the nature and potential of electrical power throughout most of recorded history. However, it took more than 4000 years for those in science and engineering to finally learn how to harness this force of nature – and throughout most of the 19th and early 20th Century, early electricians and engineers learned through trial and (sometimes fatal) error.

Today’s new generation of electrical workers are benefiting not only from those decades of trial-and-error, but also from cutting-edge training programs sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers and the National Electrical Contractors Association, the IBEW-NECA team. These programs are offered to qualified individuals through the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) at various locations throughout the country.

One of the most prominent of these training centers is located near Huntsville, Alabama, which has long been a center of space-age technology. The North Alabama JATC focuses on training for electrical jobs in industry as opposed to those involving commercial and residential projects. As you might expect, the demands of industry – as well as the corresponding standards where it comes to expertise, experience, skill and safety – are much greater. As Ron Weaver, Training Director pointed out on a recent episode of ElectricTV, “… the industrial customer really requires that you have a lot more certifications other than ‘I’ve been trained by the IBEW in a five-year apprenticeship program.”
Adrian Yarborough, who heads the local contracting firm Shoals Electric, agrees – but expresses confidence in the North Alabama JATC, stating that the training is …the best it’s ever been…there’s nobody that can compete with us.”

At the same time, these new electricians are getting an amazing opportunity for hands-on training and experience in the San Francisco Bay Area community of San Leandro, home of the Zero Net Energy Center – a building that uses no more electrical energy than it produces from its own resources based on an integrated system of solar and wind generation as well as “smart” lighting and windows as well as sophisticated heating and ventilation. It’s a project that IBEW-NECA members have been involved in extensively from the beginning.  According to Victor Uno of Local 595, it has provided a golden opportunity for apprentices and journeymen alike to gain experience and skills in the growing field of renewable energy.

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