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Hello, and welcome to another feature story here on Electric TV, your online source for what’s happening in the electrical industry, sponsored by the NECA-IBEW team. As always, I’m your host, Dominic Giarratano.

It’s certainly true that no one really pays much attention at all to the electricity that powers our cities, towns and neighborhoods. That is, until it goes out.

It’s also true that it stays on the vast majority of the time, thanks in large part to the efforts of the line men and women of IBEW, who, along with their NECA employers, are the best in the world at what they do.
And training is at the heart of that effort. With that in mind, let’s check in on the 44th Annual Outside Line Conference recently held in ft. Myers, Florida.

Geary Higgins, V.P. Labor Relations, NECA
“Well, a conference like this is an opportunity for people that are in our industry, that are involved in training, to come together and get updated on what’s going on with new technologies, new techniques.”

Todd Stafford, Executive Director, Electrical Training Alliance
“We had to find a way to collaboratively work together, because one area has already solved the problem that another area is going to have to address next week. It saves time.”

Edwin D. Hill, International President, IBEW
“We’re so far-flung, particularly in the outside world, all over the country and all over Canada, and it’s meetings like this that kind of bring the camaraderie back together and we talk about common issues. Specifically, issues in areas where we need to know what everybody else is doing.”

The NECA-IBEW team’s answer to this situation, as it has been for generations, is developing a standardized training curriculum.
As the industry changes, so too does the material that is taught to the men and women of the trade.

On the agenda for this year’s meeting was a new rigging textbook for linemen, an updated textbook on personal protective grounding, materials concerning medium voltage cable splicing, and the soon-to-be implemented crane certification course.

Steve Anderson, Dir. Outside Line Curriculum & Training, Electrical Training Alliance
“Anything in the Electrical Training Industry is just changing at such a fast rate. That’s one of our biggest challenges – to stay on top of it, to make sure all of our members, the people who use our curriculum, have the most up-to-date material possible, so they can be more productive out on the job.

“We’re spending over $100 million a year in training in this industry, and it’s all supported. No government funds are involved. This is all done within the industry. We’re not out there looking for the handouts, we’re out there taking care of our own.”

While training was a major agenda item at this year’s conference, it was by no means the only one. The necessity of growing the number of skilled IBEW journeymen and apprentices also shared the spotlight. That amount of work in the years ahead, and bringing in the people that will be needed to do it, is a front-burner priority.

Jody Shea, Service Electric
“We’ve got a lot of work, and not enough people to do the work. So, we’ve got to organize, and when we organize, you organize people at different levels.”

Todd Stafford, Executive Director, Electrical Training Alliance
“Not just apprentices getting into our program do we have to train. We have organized workers coming into our industry. They may have several thousand hours of on-the-job experience in outside industry or inside industry, and want to come into our industry, and we have to find a pathway to get them incorporated into our apprenticeship training model.”

Growing a larger workforce and training a more highly skilled workforce – both central to this year’s conference.

Whenever training is the subject of the NECA-IBEW difference, safety is item No. 1. “Being safe” is an easy thing to say, but there are also advancements in keeping our workers safe during their routine, day-to-day duties.

Chris Delavera, V.P. USA Sales, Buckingham Manufacturing Co.
“There’s been a lot of change in technology, OSHA standards and equipment. To hand a guy a box load of equipment that he’s never seen before would be challenging at best. So what we do, it we show up on the job site, we show up at the JATCs, and we provide a training, you could consider it a product orientation, to get these guys up and running, to keep it so it’s not such an intimidating process when they’re handed a bunch of gear. We’re trying to keep it simple.”

State-of-the art training, growing the workforce and industry support: It’s the combination that keeps the NECA-IBEW team as the best choice for the customer. And the evidence is easy to see.

Geary Higgins, V.P. Labor Relations, NECA
“At a conference like this, you see it first hand, you see it real-time. We are working at this every day, every hour, all the time, and you meet the people that are active, both from the industry side and then also those on the inside, who are doing the training and developing the curriculum and all that, and you get an opportunity see it live and in action.”

Joel Bell, 7th Dist. Business Development Rep., IBEW
“We have to sell our product. That’s what we’re doing you know? We have the qualified people, we have the education process, and we can produce the skilled workforce.”

Steve Anderson, Dir. Outside Line Curriculum & Training, Electrical Training Alliance
“That’s the one nice thing about standardized curriculum and training. The person that’s trained in Washington, DC or in Baltimore, Maryland, and happens to be working out in Denver, Colorado, you know exactly what this person is capable of doing, what he’s been trained in. So the customer, no matter where they’re at, when they go through and use an IBEW-NECA contractor, that they’re going to get the best-skilled, the best-trained individuals as possible.”

In any organization, it’s the individuals that make up the team, and in electrical construction the best team is NECA and the IBEW.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Electric TV. Be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for some behind the scenes extras and more. See you next time.