Students at SkillsUSA competition electrical wiring project

Regional SkillsUSA competition brightens the spotlight for the electrical trade

IBEW Local 64 connected with the future of the trade as the host for the electrical construction wiring portion of the Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition. Hundreds of students were involved from more than a dozen schools in the region.

There were six participants for the electrical competition on February 22. It included a written exam and a timed residential wiring project.

Eric Davis (right), Warren JATC training director, testing electrical wiring project in SkillsUSA regional competition.

The training directors from the Youngstown and Warren JATCs judged the students based on the quality of work they completed. Typically, most students don’t finish the whole project, but this year, most of them did.

“I was quite impressed by the work these kids did,” said Eric Davis, training director, Warren JATC.

Plugging into the electrical trade

The Youngstown JATC is trying to increase awareness about the trade with young people and the community.

“I’m involved with the vocational schools and advisory committees. I go to every high school that will have me, and I go back multiple times to meet with kids,” said Ed Emerick, training director, Youngstown JATC. “We have an influence with schools and the kids – but not a big enough influence with the area and getting people to understand what we do.”

Each of the six students in the competition had a station for their electrical wiring project.

Emerick stresses an electrician apprenticeship means no student loan debt, livable wages and great benefits. He also pointed to real-world experience gained in the process along with other pathways.

“There are associate degrees young people can get during an apprenticeship, and they’re transferable if they decide to go on to more school,” he said.

A residential apprenticeship is three years, and commercial/industrial takes five years. Emerick says apprentices choose a route before starting, but he encourages them to apply for both for a better chance of getting an interview.

Measuring, cutting and bending conduit was part of the competition.

Impressionable and professional

Cody Hilliard, the business manager for IBEW Local 64, says any opportunity to expose students to the JATCs is a good thing.

“I don’t think some kids have ever seen anything like this. When they’re in our house, they get a good idea of what the standard should be,” he said.

Student working to secure wall wiring.

Hilliard estimates that the union will interview 70-90 apprenticeship applicants from this year’s pool of candidates.

“I know we have some applicants that are from MCCTC, and last year, six or seven graduates from there went on to work as electricians under various classifications. They weren’t all apprentices but were in different programs,” he said. “Our biggest goal is to get the best and brightest into the industry and whatever pathway they take from there is up to them.”

Leading future electrical workers

Joe Svonavec has been the electricity instructor at Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna for eight years. His student, Benjamin Kline, earned first place in the competition.

“I teach the same program I graduated from. I’ve had multiple kids who are linemen, some are journeymen or going through the apprenticeship through IBEW,” Svonavec said. “Some kids have a brain for automation, design and engineering and get degrees. It’s a varied field, and you can do a lot of different things.”

Finalists for SkillsUSA Ohio State Championships: First place, Benjamin Kline (right), of Maplewood Career Center, second place, Connor Jones (left), of MCCTC, and third place Samuel Adams (middle), of TCTC.

MCCTC’s electricity instructor, Kory Cooper, says there’s been a waiting list for the program for the last two years. He likes the competitive experience for students.

“It’s a good measuring stick. It’s good to see where you stand with other schools. You’re constantly having to measure yourself against the competition,” he said.

Cooper was also proud to see his student, Connor Jones, finish in second place. Third place went to Samuel Adams from Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

All three winners will compete against students from other regions in the SkillsUSA Ohio State Championships in April. The winner of that competition then goes on to the nationals.