The Electrical Worker online
May 2018

House Education Committee Members
Learn Value of Union Apprenticeships
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Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce toured a D.C.-area IBEW training facility in March, where they received an education of their own about the value of electrical apprenticeships.

"Private, union-operated training centers like this one provide the high-quality training that IBEW apprentices need," said Washington, D.C., Local 26 Business Manager George Hogan, who was hosted the delegation. "The training is paid for through our collective-bargaining agreements, so there is no cost to participants — or to governments."

Committee Chairperson Virginia Foxx of North Carolina led the bipartisan House delegation's tour of Local 26's Joint Apprentice Training Committee center in Lanham, Md., joined by Republican Reps. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania. Ranking Member Bobby Scott of Virginia and Democrats, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands accompanied the IBEW's own Rep. Donald Norcross, a member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351.

The state-of-the-art, 31,000-square-foot Electrical Training Alliance facility is one of three operated by Local 26, a 9,000-member local with jurisdiction in the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia.

"Apprenticeships last between three and five years and combine about 800 hours of classroom training with about 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience," Local 26 Training Director Chris Cash told the members of Congress. "Graduates usually become journeyman wiremen or journeyman linemen and make more than their friends with associate degrees, on average."

Notably, Hogan said, apprentices get paid while they learn, gain access to full health benefits, and accrue money toward a defined-benefit pension.

And because the training is completely covered by the partnership between IBEW and its signatory employers in NECA, Hogan added that apprentices don't enter the workforce saddled with thousands of dollars of college debt.

The congressional delegation got a firsthand look at some of the facility's classrooms, equipped to train the local's more than 1,000 apprentices in areas such as wiring, electronics, fire alarms, motor controls, welding and pipe-bending.

Asked about the program's graduation rate, Cash told the representatives that about 60 percent of apprentices successfully complete it. This is comparable with the most recent graduation rates for full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year college.

A 2017 study by Public Sector Consultants found that in Michigan from 2000 to 2014, graduation rates for apprenticeships tended to be higher than those for community colleges. Apprentices earned about $22 an hour after completing union training programs, versus $15 an hour for those in nonunion programs. Hogan said Local 26 graduates make about $45 per hour, plus benefits.

Norcross, the only active IBEW member in Congress, has represented the Garden State's 1st Congressional District since 2014. He was the first to co-sponsor an IBEW-backed bill calling for the use of educational savings plans to pay for apprenticeship training materials such as tools and books.

These tax-exempt plans, known as 529s, typically are offered by states to help families put aside money for college. The 529 Opening Paths to Invest in Our Nation's Students Act (OPTIONS) Act has 63 co-sponsors from both parties.


Washington, D.C., Local 26 Training Director Chris Cash explains to the congressional delegation some of the benefits of a union-operated electrical worker training center.