Since the electrical apprenticeship model began, classroom instruction has been the one and only way to train, but in Philadelphia, apprenticeship education is changing. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 along with The Penn Del Jersey Chapter of NECA are bringing virtual reality into the training center to help apprentices prepare for nearly any situation on the job.
There are over 600 apprentices at IBEW 98, and 8 new virtual reality stations available to the aspiring journeymen, allowing everyone to get a chance to experience this innovative technology. Virtual reality allows the IBEW and NECA to place apprentices in any condition or scenario, without compromising safety.
For example, Philadelphia does not have windmills in the area for apprentices to learn about or work on, but with VR training, these Pennsylvania trainees can experience a scenario that allows them to hone their skills, and be prepared for a future that may require knowledge of wind turbine safety on the job. Apprentices in the area are raving about how this is expanding their knowledge and providing a safe environment to explore their capabilities. One student says, “If you mess up, it’s like a video game – you get another life. You get to try again.”
Not only does this benefit the apprentice, but the feedback from contractors has solidified that IBEW Local 98 and NECA are doing the right thing by incorporating VR into the curriculum. Contractors and the community alike are recognizing that this generation of apprentices are working online – with their iPhone, on their laptops, and on their tablets; that’s how they are learning.
Bringing Virtual Reality to Local 98 didn’t happen overnight – it took a team, working together. Without the strong bond between Penn Del Jersey NECA and IBEW Local 98, innovation like this may not have been possible. “When IBEW 98 is successful, NECA is successful. When the contractor is successful, the local is successful. We’ve worked hard, hand in hand, for years to create this bond” says Jeff Scarpello, Executive Director at Penn Del Jersey. Scarpello also boasts about this symbiotic relationship and hopes that Virtual Reality Training becomes the national standard for the IBEW and NECA.