2016 Outlook — NECA-IBEW Electricians Emphasize Education and Training While Embracing New Technology

(The following was also published in the (Youngstown) Business Journal’s Growth Report 2016)

Each year the electrical industry experiences significant advances in technology, both on the jobsite and in how individual contractors run their businesses more efficiently.

It’s a constant state of learning and adapting to new tools and ways of doing things, coupled with an aging workforce, that’s led NECA-IBEW Electricians, an association of IBEW locals in Warren and Youngstown and signatory contractors in the Mahoning Valley, to place an emphasis on education and training.

“Embracing new technology is critical in our business, and I think we do an excellent job of that with our respective members,” said Jim Burgham, business manager, IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown. “It starts with our 3- and 5-year apprentice programs, and continues into ongoing journeyman training, foreman training and special education seminars with our vendors.”

Employing a trained and available workforce enables the local contractors to confidently and competitively bid on the broadest range of commercial, industrial and residential electrical projects in the region, said Jack Savage, executive director, Mahoning Valley NECA.

“We’ve seen it play out in some local, high-profile projects where our contractors were awarded business that otherwise would have gone to out-of-town companies because we had the skills and experience right here among our workforce,” Savage said.

NECA IBEW Logo Blue_web

NECA-IBEW Electricians is a collaboration of union electrical contractors and IBEW locals in Youngstown and Warren.

NECA-IBEW Electricians and their counterparts at the Youngstown and Warren Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees (JATC) have incorporated the more technical nature of building trades electrical work into their apprentice recruiting efforts.

“A wireman is a highly skilled, highly technical and well-compensated career, and we’re trying to elevate the appeal of our apprentice programs to reflect that,” said Jack Morse, business manager, IBEW Local 573 in Warren. “Work is in great demand right here in the Mahoning Valley, and rewarding, life-long careers await the individuals who demonstrate the technical acumen and commitment it takes to join our ranks.”

NECA-IBEW Electricians expanded its marketing initiatives to include social media sites on LinkedIn and Facebook, both to raise its profile in general and to reach more apprentice candidates. Further, the JATCs are updating their website functionality to migrate parts of the apprentice application and performance evaluation functions online. Some apprentice classrooms also use audience-response technology for instructors to gauge apprentices’ familiarity with the material in real time, and so they can adjust lessons accordingly.

Beyond outreach to apprentice candidates, the local NECA chapter and IBEW Local 64 assured a lasting legacy while providing for the education needs of their existing members by endowing a scholarship at Youngstown State University. Members of IBEW Local 64 and employees of signatory contractors are eligible to apply. Those in majors related to the electrical industry are given preference, and the first awards will be presented this fall.

The association also advanced its partnership with YSU by making a two-year commitment to become an official sponsor of YSU Athletics.

NECA-IBEW Electricians contractors perform residential, commercial, industrial, green and data electrical services. Covering Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, member contractors include Becdel Controls, Boot Electric, Bruce & Merrilees, CR Electric, Cretella Electric, Datacomm Inc., Falls Electrical Contractors, Grunau Company, Gulu Electric, “Joe” Dickey Electric, Keeling Brothers Electric, Liberty Electric, Main Lite Electric, MG Electric, Penn-Ohio Electric, Rafoth Electric, RLM Electric, Roth Brothers, Santon Electric, Tri-Area Electric, University Electric, VEC, Inc. and Zenith Systems.