NECA, IBEW Plan $1.3M Training Center

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and Local 64 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers plan to build a $1.3 million training center here to prepare the next generation of tradesmen to meet the demands of an ever-changing industry.

“Our goal is to create a state-of-the art facility where apprentices can have hands-on experience,” says Bill Booth, president of IBEW Local 64.

The new center would be built at the corner of Southern Boulevard and Western Reserve Road, modeled on the similar training site that NECA and IBEW Local 573 in Warren built in Champion Township eight years ago.

New equipment, expanded floor and classroom space, as well as providing a better learning environment for both apprentices and instructors, would enhance the training for those who participate, Booth says.

“Right now, we’re cramped in the facility that we’re using,” he elaborates. This led to the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee – a training partnership between NECA and the IBEW – to make the decision to build a brand-new center in Boardman Township.

Booth reports the number of applicants for the apprenticeship program appears to be rising, so a new training site comes at the right time.

“We seem to go through a decent amount of applicants,” he says. “It seems like it’s picking back up.”

Ed Emerick, training director for the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, calls the new center “an exciting step forward for the next generation” of tradesmen in the electrical industry. “There’s office space, four classrooms, training space and an open area used for larger groups in lab training,” he says.

The architectural designs are still being worked out, Emerick says, but officials hope the center will be finished and open by the end of July 2016. The building should measure between 10,000 and 12,500 square feet, he adds.

“The biggest catalyst for this is the future need for more hands-on experience,” Emerick continues. Today, the electrical contracting industry is very competitive, and experienced journeymen simply can’t devote as much time as they once did to train apprentices on the job.

A primary goal of the center is to provide apprentices in the classroom with as much practical training and experience as possible, thereby better preparing them for when they move into the field. “It’s to bring the workplace to the classroom,” Emerick says.

Moreover, advances in technology have led to rapid changes within the electrical trades, and Mahoning County is hampered without a proper training center. “Our trade changes so quickly,” Emerick says.

Apprentices, for example, will have hands-on experience working with alternative energy such as solar power. “We plan to install a solar array, not only for training,” Emerick says, “but to power part of the building.”

The training committee runs a three-year residential apprenticeship program and a five-year commercial and industrial program, he says.

Recruiting more people to join the electrical trades is a critical part of ensuring the industry’s success in the future, Emerick adds. “There’s research that shows there’ll be a workers’ shortage in 10 years. We’re trying to prepare in advance for that.”

A key part of this process is making connections with the area’s high schools and introducing students to the benefits of a career in the electrical trades, says Jack Savage, executive director of NECA’s Mahoning Valley chapter.

“We’ve upped our efforts to recruit in quality and quantity in 2015,” Savage says. “We’re really reached out to the area’s high schools, we have an amazing program for those who may not know what we offer. You need the work, but you also need the guys to do the work.”

A new training center is one step in the right direction, Savage adds. “I think it will give the local industry a permanent home base and be a facility that we can be proud of.”

Pictured: IBEW Local 64 President Bill Booth and training director Ed Emerick show the future site of the $1.3 million training center.

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