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Women proving they' re live wires.

It was a 30-pound bundle of pipe that made Marion Jones, 32, realize she was not exactly like her co-workers. "I looked at it and then the guys looked at me," she recalled. "They jumped to my aid, but at the same time, I wanted to lift it ... by myself."

Jones, who lives in Jersey City, NJ, said she wanted no special treatment; she wanted to be like the rest of the guys at the job site. As an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 164 member electrician, she wanted to do her job. And part of that job was lifting a 30-pound bundle of pipe and installing it behind a wall.

During the past few years, an influx of women have been attracted to this trade. Today, more women than ever are taking advantage of Local 164's apprenticeship program, open to men and women who are a minimum of 17 years old when they apply; possess a high school, GED or equivalency diploma; have one year of algebra; and have a valid driver's license. Potential enrollees must present a diploma/GED certificate, birth certificate and high school transcript at the time of application, as well as a resume.

IBEW Local 164 provides apprentices with instruction, wages and practical, hands-on work experience during the course of the five-year training program. In addition to a nationally recognized apprenticeship training program, the Local offers continuing education and skill training to more than 3,900 members at its Training Academy in Paramus, N J, which is one of the most technically advanced centers of its kind in the state. There is another Local 164 state-of-the-art training center in Toms River, NJ.

"At Local 164, our apprentices are cross-trained in virtually every aspect of today's complex systems," said Dave Milazzo, president and training director. "From interpreting blueprints to the latest safety practices, Local 164's training program offers comprehensive training to prepare students for typical--and uncommon--worksite situations."

The Local 146 combines classroom instruction and fundamentals with supervised, on-the-job training. They have an enrollment of more than 1,000 federally registered apprentices in their rigorous five-year electrical and four-year telecommunications training curriculum. Furthermore, Local 164 is dedicated to the continued advancement of knowledge, education and training among its members. They are partnered with the National Labor College to offer the Local's newly developed, accelerated baccalaureate programs for trade workers with a concentration in electrical and telecommunications studies.

"I was going to college for electronics engineering when a friend recommended I apply for this program," said Jones. "I receive wages while I attend classes and gain practical field experience."

Jones explained that the five-year apprenticeship program is just the beginning of the learning process. "After you pass the rigorous exam, you begin work as a journeyman, or as I like to say, journeywoman."

Jones has accumulated 43 credits through the program, which she is applying toward her engineering degree--another benefit since many of Local 164's training classes are eligible for credit toward a college degree.

"I really feel as though I am making a great living, and the benefits are really good, too," she said. Jones is raising her young son on her own and feels secure that she can provide everything needed for her family.

Jennifer Harper, 29, of Wyckoff, N.J., who is in her second year as an apprentice, agrees. Following graduation from the University of Arizona with a bachelor of fine arts degree, she ventured into the advertising and design field. It was not what she thought it would be.

"I was miserable," said Harper. "Just getting to work everyday became a chore. Fortunately, I was introduced to some IBEW Local 164 members who encouraged me to apply for the apprenticeship program."

Harper, who was accepted into the program, is presently immersed in training and looks forward to work everyday. She also added that she finds the work to be challenging and it offers an opportunity to be extremely creative. "Everyone works as a team," she said. "The men all behave like perfect gentlemen and take every opportunity to share their education and on-the-job knowledge with the apprentices."
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 5, 2006
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