JATC Carry on the Tradition of Apprenticeship Training
During late medieval times and the Renaissance until the beginning of the Industrial Age, a young person who wished to enter a trade would apprentice himself to a master. For the first few years, the apprentice was obliged to fetch and carry, clean up around the shop and attend to a million-and-one menial tasks that were required in order for the master to carry out his craft.
Gradually, the apprentice was allowed to handle the tools and start in on simple tasks. Over the next seven years, the apprentice learned his master’s craft, and eventually became a journeyman. It took several more years for the journeyman to become a master himself – and that happened only after he had demonstrated his own mastery by producing his own work (a piece of furniture, a barrel, a pair of leather boots, a blade – or whatever he had learned to make). Once he proved himself a master, he would be admitted to a Trade Guild and was permitted to “hang out his shingle.”
The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) play a similar role in today’s high-tech industry. While these organizations represent the interest of workers (and have an amazing track record for maintaining positive relations between labor and management), they are also dedicated to training and educating the next generation of 21st-Century electrical craftspeople.
Electrical training programs are offered through the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), which is funded primarily by NECA and the IBEW. JATC training centers are located across the U.S. and Canada, where aspiring electrical workers not only learn the fine points of the latest technology and construction techniques, but also professional standards, the value of being at the jobsite when needed and doing the job correctly and to the highest standards the first time. In addition, JATC centers provide continuing education courses for those already working in the electrical field (and with today’s constant advances in technology, those teachers are kept quite busy!)
One of the most exciting JATC programs focuses on veterans returning from overseas combat duty. It is no secret that these men and women, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD, once known as “shell shock”) face many challenges in making the transition from active duty to civilian life. Shamefully, the politicians who sent them into harm’s way have been ignoring veteran’s needs and even actively causing them harm by cutting programs and benefits that former service personnel depend on.
Here again, organized labor is stepping up to the plate, through the V.I.C.E program from IBEW local 46 and the Puget-sound chapter of NECA which offers a fresh start to veterans through accelerated programs that have them earning a decent paycheck within three months. Employers find themselves benefiting not only from these workers’ advanced JATC education, but also from the discipline they have developed from basic training and months of military service.
The real winners here are all of us who depend on safe, reliable electrical energy and systems that run safely and reliably. As was the case with the Trade Guilds of old, NECA and the IBEW, through JATC programs, are turning out the finest craftspeople who make certain that the end products perform to the highest standards. ETV has also published a series of videos that provide a deeper look into JATC training programs.