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Native American Training Program
On Native American reservations across the country, job opportunities can be few and far between. Some of the poorest communities in America are in so-called “Native Lands”. The solutions to these problems aren’t easy, but sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself, people from these areas can turn their lives around.

That’s the hope of NECA, the IBEW and the NJATC, the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. They work to bring the most qualified workforce to owners every day, and their work with a new program – called the Native American Electricians Training Program – is the epitome of a win-win. NECA and the IBEW get great electricians, and 23 Native Americans get a jump start on valuable skills they need to start a new life.

The pilot program is held at the United Tribes Technical College and IBEW Local 717 in Bismarck, North Dakota, where students are spending six weeks learning a new trade – in a rigorous pre-apprenticeship program.

But it’s one thing for me to tell you – why don’t we let one member of the program explain the program in his own words?

David Carroll, Pre-Apprenticeship program participant
“Halito, chimu…that means hello, how are you in my native language. I’m a Choctaw from out in the woods in Oklahoma. I’m here in this pre-apprenticeship program to try and change my life and I’ve got some friends out here trying to change theirs as well. Let’s go meet them.”

Bob Wolf, Director, Dakotas JATC
“The pre-apprenticeship program started because Michael Callanan from the NJATC approached me about doing a pre apprenticeship with the Native Americans. There’s so much unemployment on the reservations at this point and time and the IBEW and NECA have agreed that they’re going to direct entry of these folks right into our apprenticeship program and that’s unprecedented. That’s never been done before.”

Allison Davis, Case Director, Native American Electricians Training Program
“The students that we serve come from all over the country. Currently in my class with 24 students, we have 16 different states represented. It’s a pilot program, so it’s the first one that’s being run in the United States strictly for Native Americans.”

David Carroll, Pre-Apprenticeship program participant
“We get along real good, that’s typical Natives – taking care of our own. We’re all here for different reasons, we’ve got our own reasons for being here. If you want to simplify it, we all want to better our lives. For one reason or another. So we all pull together and we all recognize the seriousness of what’s going on.

“I’m divorced. We’re no longer together but I’m real blessed, I couldn’t ask for a better mother for my son. I made poor life decisions when I was younger – she’s a federal PO, I played for the other team. I’ll just put it like that. And that’s basically why I’m here – I’m used to seeing my son every day of his life and now it’s where I get to see and I want to get stable, get back on my feet because that’s my best friend in the whole world, and I want to get to where I can see him every day again.”

Bob Wolf, Director, Dakotas JATC
This six week course is tough on them, especially the ones that have small children. I know they’ve sacrificed a lot to be here, and they’ve proven that they want to be here by the hard work they’ve put in.

Mark Wasfaret, journeyman training instructor, Dakotas JATC
“If we can get some more electricians on the reservations, if we can get them in as IBEW members, they might become even NECA contractors, so it’s all an effort to increase the market share for NECA contractors and IBEW journeymen.

“This is Cody. He’s a youngster. He’s one of these Yankees up here.
“He’s gives all kinds of tips, all kinds. Got two lines so you’re going to …

“Most of us in here are hands on learners anyway. Let me do it a couple of times, I got it. Tell me how to do it, I’m trying to pay attention.”

Talen Becenti, Krautpoint NM
“I like the program, it gives you a lot of in-depth calculations to work. You actually know what you’re doing as far as the line, the load, how to make up your wires in a res and commercial building.”

Allison Davis, Case Director, Native American Electricians Training Program
“We kind of have to start new traditions. That’s hard when we don’t have the support system that you need or desire or that was lost along the way. What’s nice about this program is we have each other. This isn’t a dog eat dog situation. We’re here as family.”

David Carroll, Pre-Apprenticeship program participant
“It’s just up to me, keep my head on straight.”

The program was developed by the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, United Tribes Technical College, NECA, the IBEW and the NJATC.

Each participant has already been placed in an apprenticeship program near their home – and is ready to get to work for their tribes and their people.