The Electrical Worker online
December 2014

Want to Be a Contractor?
IBEW Offers Top-Notch Training

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to

Jody Bradley had already started his own business when he arrived outside of Washington, D.C. in May, alongside 23 other members to attend the union's first market-driven contracting class.

Bradley is among the inaugural class designed for IBEW wiremen and linemen to go from the dispatch hall to the employer side of the business with hands-on instruction from the best in the electrical contracting business, over two staggered weeks of classes.

Another class will be starting in February.

With his slogan, "Plugging You Into the Future," Bradley looked for JOBE Electric, his new company, to pick up lighting retrofits, solar systems, new construction projects and residential services.

But the 17-year Pittsburgh Local 5 journeyman inside wireman knew he and his wife, Cheryl, needed all the support they could garner to survive the catastrophic attrition rates that challenge small businesses over their first five years.

Could his instructors, with years of experience in electrical construction management, help the entrepreneur master the requirements of incorporation, learn how to better locate and estimate jobs and get off the ground without creating an unmanageable overhead?

"The caliber of the instructors and the course material brought me to a level far above my expectations," Bradley said.

He plans to return frequently to the thick binders of information he brought back home, along with contact information for instructors who offer to mentor students beyond the end of class, and fellow students for brainstorming.

"With any new program, much of its success depends on the class dynamics, and not only did the participants want to be contractors, they want to be strong union contractors," says IBEW Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco. "President Hill's vision for this program," she says, "is to add one more tool to our toolbox for strengthening the IBEW. And I think these union contractors will do that."

Fred Sargent is encouraged by Bradley's optimism and openness to a changing market. President of Sargent Electric, a longtime signatory contractor based in Pittsburgh, he helped design the course with the IBEW Education Department.

"We want to help people who are going to start electrical contracting businesses to attack sectors of the marketplace that most traditional contractors have bypassed or stepped away from," he says. That includes residential services and small commercial work.

To summon the drive to compete with the nonunion sector of the market, says Sargent, new signatory contractors need to know and deploy the most cost-effective methods of construction, like prefabrication. And they need to reduce wasted effort and time, being open to utilizing workers in newer job classifications while simultaneously maintaining safety and quality.

Faculty includes construction professionals with decades of experience in project management, organizational dynamics, strategic planning, as well as modern techniques and "lean" methods that reduce costs.

Classes start in February and applications are due by Friday, January 16.


Pittsburgh Local 5 member Jody Bradley says IBEW's class has given him a solid foundation to start his own shop.


Fred Sargent

Applications Being Accepted for New Contractor Training

Weeks in Residence
The first session, limited to 32 class members will be offered at the Painter's union Finishing Trades Institute and Residence Suites in Hanover, Md.

Week 1 Curriculum
During Week 1 of on-campus instruction, students gain in-depth exposure to accounting, financial and legal subjects encompassing business administration concepts that every contractor should know.

Return Home to Start the Business
Then, students will return home for six weeks to complete a rigorous set of take-home assignments to start their new businesses, including filing for incorporation, selecting accounting, legal and insurance firms, beginning a banking relationship and developing a business plan.

Week 2 Curriculum
Students come back to class, where instructors concentrate on best practices in pre-construction and construction activities, with an overarching theme of balancing material management with the effective use of multiple classifications of electricians.

The pilot program will start on Sunday evening and conclude on Saturday at noon. The cost per attendee is $1,000 per week for a total of $2,000. Included in the cost is food and lodging at the IUPAT Conference Center. Travel costs will be the responsibility of each attendee.

Applications and a list of frequently-asked questions can be found on the IBEW Education Department Web page: departments/education.htm. Classes start in February. Applications are due on Jan. 16.

If you have questions, please contact IBEW Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco at
(202) 728-6104 or at

Electrician: Contracting Class 'Helps Me Succeed'

Al Budd worked in a nonunion shop for four years before joining Ithaca, N.Y., Local 241 in 2005. During his 10 years of membership, he became vice president of the local and chairman of the safety committee.

He started KB Electric in 2012, but was still taking short calls out of the hall until he got enough customers to keep him fully engaged.

"I focus on $30,000 to $70,000 projects," says Budd, who takes pride in completing a Rite Aid store in town, keeping the project from going nonunion by using alternative classifications to compete.

Budd completed his second week of the Market-Driven Contracting course in August.

"I paid for a lot of start-up costs out of my own pocket," Budd said. But "I have taken away a lot of knowledge and resources from instructors who possess most if not all of the skills to help new contractors succeed. They are the best."


The curriculum includes project management, strategic planning and 'lean' methods to reduce costs.