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Lighting Control Benefits Achieved Through Proper Installation by Trained Union Workforce

Dimmer switches like these have been around for a long time. What was seen at the time as a technological leap is now standard procedure in the industry. As always happens, this innovation is no longer enough if you are concerned about saving money, enhancing mood or just being on the leading edge of technology.

What does this have to do with this story on Electric TV? Well, here in our studio we rely on dimmer switches and lighting controls just as much as the rest of the world. But the electrical industry changes at break-neck speed. If the IBEW and NECA aren’t keeping an eye on new ways of doing things like others, they’ll be ready for the scrap heap. IBEW electricians and their NECA contactors recognized this early on in their history, and have been involved with cutting-edge training and technology ever since.

The latest in lighting is lighting control. Building owners and end users are increasingly demanding the newest innovations in their buildings, not because they make a building ‘look cool’, but because they attract tenants, they say something about your brand – and most importantly, they save you money.

Lou DeBour, Executive Director, Albany NECA
“I think a lot of construction now is drifting toward some sort of modularity. Building-wise, lighting-wise and the constructs for the new lighting control mechanisms in these buildings is on the increase.”

The next generation of lighting controls is blowing older versions out of the water and it’s not just because they exist. It’s because IBEW apprentices and Journeymen are honing the skills needed to master the installation of these products and services at joint IBEW-NECA training centers around the country.

A new program grew out of that NECA-IBEW partnership that we tout so often here on ETV – one that also includes NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Peter Dulcich, Retired Training Director, Central NY JATC
“A couple of years ago, the JATCs in New York State, all 14 of them, collectively recognized that NYSERDA had money available for training. Grant money that was available to both organizations and labor unions and management collaborated apprenticeship programs. So we took advantage of that opportunity, applied for the funding and moved through NYSERDA’s process and were awarded an initial amount of funding toward workforce development, toward training of advanced lighting controls.”

Scott Kessler, project manager, NYSERDA
“Southern California Edison, a utility out in California, brought together different stakeholders, from energy efficiency, from education, they brought in some community colleges, and we all worked together to jointly develop this lighting curriculum. From there, the IBEW and NECA partnered with NYSERDA to bring that to New York State.”

Peter Dulcich, Retired Training Director, Central NY JATC
“It’s done through hands-on training so that apprentices and journeyman wiremen are used to the very same things they’re going to use in the field.”

Andrew Lawler, National Sales Manager, Lutron Electronics
“So having an educated workforce who understands not only the technologies that underlies lighting controls, but how they get installed, how they get programmed, what is right look like versus what does wrong look like, so you can maximize the effectiveness of those lighting controls.”

It’s hoped that this program can improve the quality of lighting installations, enable better and more accurate bids for jobs and foster satisfied building owners by reducing lighting load and costs in their buildings.

Don Rahm, BM, Local 236
“I think in the overall market, everyone is going to benefit from it. I think manufacturers and the utilities will benefit from it, I think the customer and end users, the people in general, the environment from reduced carbon footprint. I think it’s going to be a very good benefit from everyone involved.”

Andrew Lawler, National Sales Manager, Lutron Electronics
“There’s a variety of reasons that lighting control is important. Not the least of which is because from a manufacturer’s standpoint, when the stuff gets put in the building, installed somewhere, you want to make sure it’s working correctly from the start. Energy code and building code is driving people to need controls. They have to have controls in almost all of the building, whereas in the past it used to be controls in discrete parts like a conference room, but by and large, on/off relay control based in other parts.”

This is intensive work that not just any electrician off the street can do. It requires intelligence, a certain amount of aptitude for puzzles and the technical ability of a clean, concise installation.

Scott Kessler, project manager, NYSERDA
“We will work to develop a workforce so that there’s electricians out there who actually know about these technologies, they can install them properly and can eventually down the road put them down in the code.”
Don Rahm, BM, Local 236

“Like a lot of apprentices, I don’t think they’re afraid of much. This new generation, this is their world. The days of carrying pipe and digging ditches, it’s changing quick. There will always be a need for that, but the technology that’s evolving with things I think these kids embrace it whole heartedly.”

For NYSERDA’s part, this partnership has benefits that extend beyond those for NECA and the IBEW. The energy-using citizens of New York also benefit. So they offer education and technological support, as well.

Scott Kessler, project manager, NYSERDA
“So New York State and the citizens get a lot of benefit out of this program. We get to not only see a more educated workforce and we see them bidding on contracts, but the building owners and citizens are actually requesting these jobs, they’re going to see their electric bills come down, they’re going to see the strain on the environment reduced and they’re going to improve the state’s overall economy.”

Peter Dulcich, Retired Training Director, Central NY JATC
“Both architects and customers can be certain that the installation they have with an IBEW-NECA contractor is done right the first time, done on time and within the budget.”

NYSERDA, Albany NECA and the IBEW locals in New York are hoping to take the program national in the coming months and years. Programs similar to these are also in place at many JATCs around the country, so make sure to contact your local NECA-IBEW training center to see if they offer something like it.