As the electrical industry evolves, so do our journeymen’s skillsets

Workmanship, safety and technical knowledge are the backbones of a successful electrician. And staying on top of the every-changing industry requires a commitment to continuing education.

“We put on numerous courses throughout the years for journeyman electrician training,” said Bill Booth, president, IBEW Local 64. “A lot of times a customer will even request a certain training. Anytime a journeyman asks for a type of training for an upcoming project, we’ll put a class on.”

While most of the curriculum for classes is created by the Electrical Training Alliance, there are opportunities for classes to be based on what is needed locally.

“We put together the curriculum for specifics, and help individuals maintain employment on a specific jobsite,” said Ed Emerick, training director, Youngstown Area Electrical JATC.

In addition to sharpening skills, Booth believes these classes are creating more work opportunities.

“When certain jobs come through that we know we need to train for, we’re putting it out to our members and making sure we’re driving them back to the training center. It’s opening doors and creating lasting customers.”

One specific example was an extensive package put together on crane and lift signaling for Vallourec Star.

“On the jobsite, journeymen were able to properly learn how to rig lifts for bringing equipment on-site by crane,” Emerick said.

A similar class was recently offered for those who were interested in working at the Shell ethylene cracker plant site, a massive, petrochemical plant project in Monaca, Pa.

“If you had that certification, you could get hired there immediately,” Booth said. “We probably put a half dozen individuals down there.”

Safety is a main priority in all of the journeymen training courses. Earlier this year, a high voltage safety course was held to help educate journeymen on how to safely work with transformer connections options.

“A lot of times we get into a customer-owned substation, and our members need to be educated on how to properly shut down and ground a system,” Booth said. “That class went over very well, and we’re going to build off of that.”

Seeing the use of renewable energy on the horizon, Emerick highlighted a green energy class from seven years ago that was conducted thanks to a state grant.

“We did extensive training with solar, wind, energy management, and lighting systems,” he said. “We had a lot of people take part in that, and thanks to stipends, they were paid to take the class.”

To keep up to date with technology throughout the industry, a new lab created in partnership with Winkle Electric Company, Inc. at the YJATC will be used this fall for programmable logic controller training.

“These PLCs are going to be driving the future of technology,” Booth said. “We need to be teaching our members how to work on various components.”

And for journeymen looking to take the next step in their career, a new Foreman Development Series is being offered.

“We are encouraging as many people as possible to go through these courses for foremanship development,” Emerick said. “By doing so, we can direct both safety and productivity at the same time.”