Cody Hilliard and Kenny Lucas, of IBEW Local 64, at guidance counselors presentation about skilled trades.

Electricians school educators about skilled trades careers

The teachers became the students at an information session about skilled trades careers.

Around 70 area guidance counselors and educators gathered at the Sheet Metal JAC Training Center in Boardman to learn about the many opportunities for young people in the building trades. Eric Davis, training director at the Warren Electrical JATC, was among the presenters.

Davis fielded questions about the apprentice aptitude test, as well as about wages and benefits. He also emphasized how the trades can be a fit for young women.  

“We’ve seen a lot of success from women electricians,” he said. “It helps when we have events like the Skilled Trades Expo. When girls see someone like them, they feel the opportunity is there.”

Eric Davis, Warren JATC training director, discussing electrician apprenticeship details.

Trade-related math and science skills were also top of mind – including the ability to read a tape measure. Davis recommended that students who want to become electricians should have, at minimum, a command of an eighth grade-level of math.

“They should at least have a basic understanding of algebra, but they’ll learn what they need to know during the apprenticeship,” Davis said.

Gary Hartman, the association services director for The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio & Western Pennsylvania, gave an apprenticeship overview and why it’s important to make sure students are aware of the options available in the skilled trades.

“There’s nothing wrong with college. It’s the students who then go to college and don’t know what they want to do. They’re the ones we want to reach,” Hartman said.

Schools latching onto skilled trades

Robert Eggleston is the coordinator of career counseling at the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio. He says interest in the trades is growing.

“We’ve had excellent response from the schools. Career center programs are full. Programs are being embedded into high schools. We have 400-500 students taking these classes in the region. That’s why it’s important to get these counselors in here,” Eggleston said.

Two Lordstown High School teachers are leading a new program in fall 2024 that will focus on life skills and the trades. They were thrilled to be passing on more information to their students.

“The handouts about how kids get started are valuable – and the booklet that explains each trade. These answer questions that the students are asking,” said Julie Rook, Lordstown High School.

2023 Mahoning Valley Skilled Trades Expo
2023 Mahoning Valley Skilled Trades Expo

Trusting the process

The Builders Association says it’s been a slow process, but the momentum is beginning to pick up for apprenticeships. Events like the Skilled Trades Expo help that effort.

“We’re seeing the age of applicants coming down. It used to be more like 25-30, but now it’s more 18-21-year-olds. That means we’re getting them before they do something else,” Hartman said.

He also pointed to the strong turnout for the presentation as evidence of the shift in mentality towards the trades.

“There are opportunities now that weren’t available 10 years ago. We’re providing career options for kids.”

Leaders of IBEW Locals 64 and 573 also attended the presentation and were pleased with the response from schools. The electricians want to remain engaged in the community and make sure young people are aware of career pathways in the industry.

NECA-IBEW Electricians makes up a highly trained union workforce in the area. We’re an association of IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown, IBEW Local 573 in Warren and signatory electrical contractors throughout the Mahoning Valley.