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Advancing Training in Today’s Construction Industry
How to you measure the training of a crafts profession in today’s construction industry? I want you to think about that. Really and truly, how do you measure training? Can you evaluate training based on looks lone? The NECA-IBEW team believes the answer isn’t as easy as it seems. They believe it takes 5 years, and over 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, and an additional 900 hours of related instruction.

And it just so happens that that is exactly how long it takes to complete a union apprenticeship program. An increasing number of suppliers and manufacturers – some of the biggest names in the business – are also beginning to see that this union self-funded training model is not only the way, but the only way.

Education and training is big business. It’s not something that should be taken lightly, and certainly deserves more than the lip service many give it in today’s construction industry.

Hands-down, unequivocally, and without question, NECA, the National Electrical Contractors Association, and the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have the most advanced and 21st-century training operation in the history of the industry. Their training arm, the NJATC, makes sure of it.

Mark Cerulla, Director of Operations, NJATC
“We develop the standards and create the curriculum that is taught across the nation for all of our apprentices and journeymen that are in the electrical industry.”

Throughout the 285 local union training center, no longer are the 40,000 union apprentices being trained in the same old ways. Traditional, hands-on techniques are now being blended with high-tech, computer-based learning applications, allowing this new breed of apprentice to become proficient in the basics and masters in in-demand geo-specific job skills.

Mark Cerulla, Director of Operations, NJATC
“Now, giving the flexibility of each region to say, ‘We want to move more in an industrial route. We want to move more into green energy. We want to move more into these various specializations.’ The training now can adapt more to the needs of the contractors in those regions to provide more flexibility, to allow them to bid on more jobs that are related to what they need to do.”

Steve Killius, VP Contractor Resource Group, LeGrand North America
“There’s a desperate need for change, in the electrical industry in particular, and we think that we can be a catalyst for that. Working with the NJATC is a really solid opportunity to do that.”

This new approach is called blended learning, and it is made possible through the new partnerships with some of the best suppliers and manufacturers in the construction industry, some of which we caught up with at a recent training partner summit in South Carolina.

Melissa Golden, U.S. Market Segment Manager, Schneider Electric
“To really get together with an organization, a top organization like the NJATC, understand what their real moving-forward goals are, how they’re really developing and evolving in a way that students learn today and incorporating that blended learning approach. It provides a way for us to get line of sight on what they think is important, where they’re headed, but also to talk with other industry leaders about how we can work together to provide an even better experience for the participants who go through the JATC training programs.”

Andrew Lawler, National Sales Manager, Lutron
“For the NJACT staff themselves, it’s an excellent forum to get real-time feedback about what matters. How do we continue to provide the right framework to accomplish what each individual training partner needs, and a the same time, move the whole industry forward.”

Bruce Spencer, VP and General Manager, Salisbury by Honeywell
“From our standpoint, it’s a comfortable environment. We get to be very expressive of our opinions. The team here listens very well, and we’re excited to participate because we actually get value. Not only at a high level, but we get to go back and we take some of those strategic thoughts and actually go back to the field and employ them.”

Geary Higgins, VP Labor Relations, NECA
“The other thing about these meetings that I’ve noticed over the years is that they’re getting better. They’re getting more comprehensive, with more people involved, you learn from one another, people have new ideas, the communication is great.”

The latest technologies, projects and services are now getting into the hands of today’s apprentices before they hit your job site.

Bruce Spencer, VP and General Manager, Salisbury by Honeywell
“You’re going from more of a book environment where somebody was trained that way long ago, into more of a 3-D, interactive environment.”

Melissa Golden, U.S. Market Segment Manager, Schneider Electric
“The NJATC is a top-tier organization that really provides a well-seasoned, well-rounded, well-educated electrical worker in the industry. It’s a premiere organization that really thinks about not only how to install a device but they focus on why and where, and what makes the best, most practical installation for everybody involved. Both for the worker and for the end user at the end of the installation.”

Bruce Spencer, VP and General Manager, Salisbury by Honeywell
“It really happens with the electricians in the field. From our standpoint, when you have an electrician that you would hire from this organization, you know that they’ve been trained very well, very thoroughly, and very professionally.”

Steve Killius, VP Contractor Resource Group, LeGrand North America
“We think this is a chance to actually influence how things are done, not just what products are used, but actually to influence how things are done in the future in the electrical industry.”

The question then becomes, who benefits the most?

Melissa Golden, U.S. Market Segment Manager, Schneider Electric
“The benefit of the end users of the NJACT program and our partnering with the NJATC to deliver to installers is that they get a safer building, they get a quality installation with fewer problems, better reliability, and the best possible efficiency that they would want.”

Geary Higgins, VP Labor Relations, NECA
“Ultimately, the customer is why we’re in business. To serve the customer. But in this process of these partnerships, everybody benefits. And I think that’s the best part of it. It’s just educating people how that could happen.”

Ed Hill, International President, IBEW
“Any time that you’re working with someone who’s providing the equipment and the tools that you work with every day, and it gives us an opportunity to enhance our membership, for them to do the job, it’s got to be a win-win.”

The NECA-IBEW team measures training by the millions of self-funded training dollars that they invest annually, the tens of thousands of new apprentice graduates ready to go to work on your next project, and the innumerable happy customers seeing the value of a union-built job since 1891.

We began this video with a question, and we’d like to end with one, too. Can you name anther country in the electrical industry who can measure training better than the NECA-IBEW team? We can’t either. And as always, remember that as the industry changes, the NECA-IBEW team with change with it, and continue to not just train, but train well.