July 2011

Transforming Maryland Lives with Training
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Last January, when the state of Maryland received a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration to prepare more than 1,500 Marylanders for green jobs, Washington, D.C., Local 26 and the National Electrical Contractors Association stepped up with a plan for success.

They asked their Electrical Alliance's Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to design a 15-week, 90-hour course to attract Prince George's County, Md., residents into the field of electrical construction and solar generation, using funds from the Maryland Energy Sector Partnership.

On April 28th, a recognition ceremony was held at the JATC's facility in Lanham, Md., for the first group of 30 entry-level residential trainees who have all been placed with electrical contractors. Maryland State Secretary of Labor Alexander M. Sanchez was the keynote speaker.

English Harper, who had previously applied to Local 26's apprenticeship program, was one of the "Go Solar" graduates. A few weeks ago, says Harper, 18, "I was unloading trucks at Macy's and had zero experience with anything electrical." When he finished his classes, he says, "I knew about boxes and services, wiring devices and bending pipe. This was the way to get a jump start." Harper, who is working for Contemporary Electric in Arlington, Va., hopes to start the apprenticeship in September.

"We gave the trainees the basics and then we sent them to work. We advised them to use their performance in the classroom and on the job to make themselves as attractive as possible to prospective employers," says Sean Myers, special projects coordinator at the JATC. All of the program's graduates, taught by veteran Local 26 instructors Ralph Neidert and William Murphy, have applied for the inside wireman apprenticeship. To date, six have been accepted into the next class.

While some state-licensed pre-apprenticeship programs provide as much as 480 hours of preparation, says Myers, they often don't have the success rate at placing graduates that has already been achieved at Local 26. "The outcomes are here," says Myers. Drawing from a population of veterans and reservists, low-wage workers and ex-offenders, 35 candidates began the program; only five dropped out.

"They are going to work making $32,000 a year, with benefits, and the chance to make much more in the future," says Myers, who is already preparing for a second class.

Dwayne Stout, another graduate, is working for Perlectric installing lights, receptacles, fire alarms and security card readers. "I was in the right place at the right time," he said about the training program. Stout had worked for years for DirecTV, Comcast and Mr. Tire, but he was still without a career. "When I first started the program," says Stout, "I thought it was just a beginner's class." But Stout, who will enter Local 26's apprenticeship in September, says instructors were anxious to pass on as much information as they could squeeze into 15 weeks.

In addition to fueling training for newcomers to the trade, the energy partnership's funds have been used to train 100 incumbent Local 26 members in alternative energies.

The pre-apprenticeship program aims to train 480 new and incumbent workers. It is one of four funded by the Maryland Energy Sector Partnership that aims to help create at least 100,000 green jobs by 2015.

Dwayne Stout receives congratulations from Maryland Secretary of Labor Alexander Sanchez after completing a Washington, D.C., Local 26 pre-apprenticeship program.