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August 2017

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Earn and Learn Debt-Free, IBEW Tells Congress

The IBEW apprenticeship program took center stage before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Capitol Hill, with a member telling lawmakers that IBEW training makes graduates immediately employable with journey-level skills that are valued anywhere.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, helps set Democratic policy. The hearing was on challenges facing young adults in today's economy.

"While entry into these programs is competitive, with an emphasis on math and science, we sponsor pre-apprenticeship programs to help with preparedness," said Rachel Bryan, an international representative in the Department of Civic and Community Engagement. "RENEW chapters are working with the leadership of their local unions to educate young workers about the opportunities and benefits the apprenticeship program offers."

Bryan was representing RENEW/Next Gen, an IBEW initiative for members 35 and younger that nurtures future leaders.

"We have to consider the 60 percent of millennials that do not have a college degree," DeLauro said at the June 15 hearing. "They are a majority of the millennials who are part of the working public in the United States, so we need to look at how we provide job training, educational opportunities, and training for jobs in the digital economy, so that all workers are in position to get a job with fair wages."

Bryan, who is a journeyman wireman and member of Dublin, Calif., Local 595, discussed construction apprenticeship programs with the curricula set by the Electrical Training Alliance, a partnership between the IBEW and unionized contractors.

Such programs can be an attractive alternative to college for some students because they finish them with little or no debt. Apprentices also are paid a salary and work on a jobsite while completing their education.

"I learned skills that can never be taken away," Bryan said. "I am now able to build my community literally and figuratively. I completed this program with no student loan debt and immediate access to employment."

That same day, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that called for an additional $200 million in federal funds to be spent on apprenticeship programs while also giving private industry more authority in designing them. It is expected to have little, if any, impact on the IBEW's training programs, which are paid for by the IBEW and its signatory contractors.

Bryan said RENEW/NextGen members are visiting with high school students and counselors to ensure the value of apprenticeships is better understood. That also should help make them more attractive to traditionally underrepresented groups, such as people of color and women, she said.

"Diversity is part of [the millennials'] mantra," she said. "It's not an issue for them."

Rep. Darren Soto of Florida asked the panelists for one suggestion to improve the future of the economy.

"More investments in pre-apprenticeship programs that lead to apprenticeships," Bryan said. "Investments in the building trades that lead to an improved infrastructure and into careers that are viable now and in the future."

Bryan also noted in a response to a question from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the IBEW negotiates through collective bargaining for health insurance and pension benefits that young workers in other industries feel like they are missing out on. Pelosi appoints the committee members and attended most of the hearing.

"I'm very proud to be part of a union that works to provide this and believes that all workers should have these types of benefits," she said. "I feel that we are leading the cause and others will follow."


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meeting on June 15. California Rep. Eric Swalwell looks on.


Rachel Bryan, an international representative in the Department of Civic and Community Engagement, testifies before the committee.

Oklahoma Football Gets a Powerful Face-Lift from the IBEW

When the Oklahoma Sooners decided in 2015 it was time for a major upgrade to the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, the university's Board of Regents turned to the same IBEW contractor it's used on the historic football structure for decades.

The $160 million project, which was substantially completed in April, gave the south end of the stadium a completely new look, adding seats to surround the field for the first time in school history and topping them with the second biggest video screen in college sports. But the real work came below, where workers constructed an enormous new training and meeting facility for the football program, complete with offices, film rooms, therapy rooms, new locker rooms, an indoor track and a 25,000-square-foot weight room.

"This is an amazing transformation for this football program and for this stadium," said Mickey Smith, a 35-year member of Oklahoma City Local 1141 and the construction manager for Shawver & Son, Inc., the project's signatory electrical contractor. His team used more than 130 IBEW electricians on the job at its peak, and the total project involved more than 750,000 man-hours from all trades combined. "From the field, and for the players and coaches, it's a totally different experience now."

Before the latest renovation, Oklahoma's stadium was a horseshoe shape, enclosed on the north side, with a free-standing set of bleachers in the south end zone. Local legend had it that the south end had been constructed in such a way that the open southeast and southwest corners couldn't be filled in. Things just wouldn't line up correctly, the naysayers said.

It's possible they were right, because closing the gap required demolishing more than 35 percent of the existing structure, but the resulting bowl, which was completed in time for the 2016-17 football season last fall, had Sooner fans abuzz — so excited, in fact, that they crashed OU's servers in 2014 when the plans were first revealed.

The project's most noticeable feature is a 7,849-square-foot, state-of-the-art video board that is the envy of the Sooners' sporting rivals. The board measures 167 feet by 47 feet, and comes with a sound system that features 30 amplifiers and 24 subwoofers. The whole system runs on nearly 425,000 watts of power on gamedays, and it can be seen all the way from downtown Norman on the opposite side of OU's campus.

Eric Sager, a 16-year member who served as Shawver's general foreman, said the job was the biggest he's been a part of to be completed in such a short amount of time. "They started tearing down the old stand almost as soon as the lights went off at the end of the 2015 football season," Sager said, "and the first phase, which included every bit of the stadium that fans are able to use on gameday, was done before kickoff the next fall."

That meant the bulk of the structure was finished in just under nine months. When the Sooners kicked off on Saturday, Sept. 10, last season, the team started a social media campaign, "#surrOUnded," with the 'OU' capitalized for effect, to describe the new fan experience with the open corners filled in.

"It made everything flow so much better," OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione told "For the first time, now a fan can walk around from one side of the stadium to the other through the south end."

The work that was left included everything the general public wouldn't regularly use — football facilities tucked under the south stands and a new, extended exterior façade that would nearly double the size of the previous office and training space.

"What's especially unique about the new football facilities," Sager said, "is that 90 percent of it — basically everything you can see in the finished space — is LED lighting. It's been nice to get to work so much with these energy-efficient fixtures."

Sager said his crew had been reduced to a few electricians working through a final punch list and finishing some exterior lighting, and that everything would be completed in time for players and coaches to prepare for the season opener, scheduled for Sept. 2 against the University of Texas - El Paso.

"Our company has been involved in this stadium for a long time," Smith said, who himself ran the $75 million expansion in the early 2000s. "Our long relationship with the university says a lot about the quality of the work our company and our IBEW electricians do on a consistent basis."

"The opportunity to work on something directly related to the Sooners is a definite source of pride for our local union," said Local 1141 Business Manager Dewayne Wilcox. "Like the OU team showing its best efforts on the field, our members strive for that same level of excellence on the jobsite."


Ryan Drury, an apprentice at Oklahoma City Local 1141, works high above the new south stand in the early stages of the OU project. The old stand had to be mostly removed to complete the stadium bowl and add thousands of seats.