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Electrical Cabling Industry Moves To Relieve Worker Shortage.

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are actively seeking more help from business and education to counteract the shortage of skilled electrical workers and meet expanding demand for information cabling. NECA and the IBEW are focusing on cooperative education awareness activities that address technology training needs and career opportunities for future electricians and cabling installer/technicians.

"Through this program, we hope to unite the wide-ranging resources of the business, education and labor communities to effectively meet these critical technology and workforce requirements," says John M. Grau, chief executive officer of NECA.

IBEW International President John J. Barry estimates that an additional 50,000 telecommunications installer/technicians will need to be recruited and trained over the next decade to meet the information cabling needs of the nation's commercial buildings. Currently the organized electrical construction industry has about 40,000 apprentice electrical workers in training every year, of which 5,000 are installer/technicians.

Earning and Learning

Many training and apprenticeship programs are already underway through the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), a partnership effort of NECA and the IBEW. Since its founding in 1941, NJATC programs have helped train more than 300,000 professional electricians.

Growth in Service-Learning Participation

Comparison of data from 1997 and 1984 shows dramatic growth in high school service-learning programs. The portion of U.S. schools offering curriculum-linked service learning grew from about 9 percent in 1984 to about 56 percent in 1997. That's just one finding from a 1999 study report, "The Status of Service-Learning in the United States," produced by the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

Service learning also shows high participation rates compared with those of other major youth initiatives such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, School-to-Work and Tech Prep. However, funding for service-learning programs is notably lower than for the other programs (see chart "Service Learning Compared to other Youth Programs").


BOY SCOUTS OF 4,573,000 $84 $18.37

GIRL SCOUTS OF 2,670,692 $44 $16.48

4-H 6,000,692 $550 $91.51

SCHOOL-TO- 958,794 $250 $208.60

TECH PREP 737,635 $100 $135.57

SERVICE- 5,400,237 $30 $5.56

Source: National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. Data provided by The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, The National Council of the Girl Scouts, the 4-H National Headquarters, Office of Adult and Vocational Education (U.S. Department of Education), and Learn and Serve America Final Report (Alan Melchior/Brandeis University).

How Apprenticeships Work

The NJATC program is organized by geographical areas, with participating IBEW local unions and NECA chapters now funding more than 300 local programs. Unlike most apprenticeship education programs, The NJATC programs provide participants with regular paychecks, health and pensions benefits, and college credits during training. Depending on the electrical specialty selected, length of apprenticeship, and local pay rate, NJATC participants generally earn between $80,000 and $150,000 over their full apprenticeship period.

Most apprenticeship programs run from three to five years, depending on the specialty chosen. currently, the most popular apprenticeships are for telecommunication's installer/technician, lineman, and inside wireman, which require 3-, 3 1/2- and 5-year programs, respectively. All demand several hundred hours of classroom time, and thousands of on-the-job training hours under the direction of experienced professionals. The NJATC program has also formed many alliances with colleges and universities to help electrical workers obtain academic degrees.

In 1999, NECA and IBEW invested an estimated $80 million in NJATC programs to train more than 40,000 apprentices as well as 50,000 journeymen who returned for specialized instruction to further improve or update their skills.

"We need a new and concerted effort to recruit young people into the construction industry in general and the electrical field in particular," says Barry, "but we can't do it alone."

NECA and IBEW officials note that the call for cooperation in developing the information cabling workforce also will require "rewiring" the nation's attitudes toward the construction industry and highly skilled labor.

"The prosperity of the last decade and the glamorizing of overnight high-tech wealth has, unfortunately, moved many people to forget the honor of the skilled trades and their value in the workplace," says Barry. "Within society as a whole and the construction industry in particular, we need to reemphasize the worth and rewards of trade mastery and skilled labor careers."
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Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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