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What good is a sports car in a blizzard?

How many home runs would a major leaguer hit if they used a whiffle ball bat?

Would Lance Armstrong have won seven Tour de France races if he was on a mountain bike?

While automobiles, baseball bats and Lance Armstrong don’t have the slightest thing to do with electrical training and education, the point is, you need the right tool to do the job in the right way, especially in electrical construction.

The NJATC – the NECA/IBEW team’s training arm – is in the midst of a shift to their core-curriculum. That’s to assure owners and end-users that the thousands of graduates of their programs possess the most important tool of all – their minds.

The most important tool IBEW electricians have is knowledge of the trade. It’s polished and perfected over 5 years of classroom and on-the-job training.

And for knowledge to grow, training must evolve – not along with the industry – but ahead of it, leading the way.

For more than 70 years, NECA and the IBEW have used a traditional way to turn apprentices into journeymen. It has worked, without fail, for those 70-plus years.

But it’s the 21st century, and just like everything else is changing, so too must the model of apprenticeship.

Out of those old times comes a new shift – the NJATC Core Curriculum. It’s a novel program to make the best apprentices into the best journeymen and electricians.

It’s a five-year program that will allow for every NECA-IBEW electrician to have core competencies – in conduit bending, DC theory, transformers, codes and practices and more – as well as allow for the specialization that different areas of the country need to remain competitive in this evolving marketplace.

The result is that contractors get the best employees, and customers get their jobs done as fast and as efficiently as possible.

Let’s take you through the new plan – let’s say I’m a new apprentice.

First on my plate is boot camp. I’m a bit apprehensive, but I’m ready to get down to work. How’s my JATC going to provide me with the tools I need to get started?

David Long, Senior VP, Miller Electric Co.
“With the boot camp, we’re able to get them tool identification, material identification, some basic skills so when they go to our job sites, they’re more productive, they’re more safe and they understand the responsibility they have and then we can quickly determine their ability to grow into the trade.”

Geary Higgins, NECA, VP Labor Relations
“You have persons that enter the program and start day one, they’re ready to go to work. They’ve had through the boot camp, they’ve had exposure to tools and methods of construction, so they’re ready to go to work from the first day.”

Don Davis, training director, Local 11 IBEW
“Throughout the first year, with the boot camp and industry awareness experience, as well as the first year application, hands-on experience, our first year apprentices are clearly more productive than ever before.”

So I finally know the difference between conduit and a transformer. I’m ready to hit the ground running. I can be a help to my employer and the journeymen who will be teaching me the hands on skills I’ll need to do the best for the customer.

But I’ll also need to be able to impress my JATC director and instructors in my first two years, when I’m learning the core knowledge, skills and abilities that every NECA-IBEW electrician knows. How are they going to turn me from a green horn into the best electrician around?

Michael Callanan, NJATC, executive director
“One of the most important parts of core curriculum is a basic, fundamental set of skills that are taught early in the apprenticeship to help our apprentices be more productive, better meet the needs of our customers in the electrical industry.”

Marty Reisberg, director of curriculum development, NJATC
“By using core curriculum and a roll out of core curriculum, there’s the ability of a local to really dive deeply into a particular topic and provide the whole knowledge of a course.”

David Long, Senior VP, Miller Electric Co.
“We can be very confident that every apprentice in a jurisdiction has a certain core. They have basic skills that are equally across the board from coast to coast.”

In the 3rd, 4th and 5th years, here’s where the change is really happening. What used to be a standard program that would teach me blue prints, code calculation and more theory is giving me all that information and more.

I’m allowed to specialize, according to the kind of market I’m in. It makes apprentices like me perfect for the customers we’re serving by helping us develop a specifically geared skillset.

Marty Reisberg, director of curriculum development, NJATC
“So there are areas of the country in which photovoltaics might be a lot more needed than another area of the country. The same with instrumentation or other types of work.”

Gary Poulak, training director, Detroit Electrical JATC
“You can see the industries that are fading away in this country. And the electrical industry, because of the work that we do, is becoming so technical and so growth-oriented, we’re actually in a growth industry.”

Bill Riley, business manager, Local 349, Miami
“The core curriculum is like going from the past to the 21st century. Before it was set in stone what you did, what you didn’t do, what you taught and didn’t teach. This has your basic core things, but it also has the ability for the committee to make decisions on what is important to them. And then it makes it important to us.”

Rick Hecklinger, assistant executive director, NJATC
“The JATC is going to have to decide, what subjects do we want them to do? What areas in our contactors, our customers, where is the meat of the work? Because we want to make sure they’re well trained in the specialty areas.”

Jack Flanagan, business manager, Local 81, Scranton
“If your situation changes six months from now, we can change right with it. That’s the whole advantage of the core curriculum.”

And at the end of the day, it’s about delivering what the customer needs – a well-trained electrician that’s going to get the job done and make them money.

Michael Callanan, NJATC, Executive Director
“Core curriculum really empowers the local JATC to make choices about their related instruction for their apprentices that best reflect the needs of their contractors and the electrical community.”