The Electrical Worker online
February 2020

From the Officers
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A More Inclusive Union

Last November, we ran a feature we called "The IBEW Changed My Life," where we asked some of you to tell the stories of what IBEW membership has meant to you and your families.

Those stories lifted me up and made me so proud of this brotherhood and what all of us pulling together in the same direction can accomplish.

But it also made me think: How many of us became IBEW members because we were lucky enough to have a family member or a friend — or in my case, a friendly stranger — point out the opportunities that were available through the union?

We're all so fortunate to be a part of this great union, to be able to band together to fight for better wages, quality health care and a secure retirement. And as we continue to grow, to increase our collective power, I think a lot about how we can expand the opportunities we've had to people who haven't heard about what the IBEW can do for them and their families.

One way we're doing that is through pre-apprenticeships, which you'll read about in this month's cover story. These short, intensive programs give people who may not have had any exposure to the electrical trade a hands-on look at a career that could become their path to the middle class.

These pre-apprenticeships serve several important functions for newcomers to the IBEW. First, they offer preparatory classes like math tailored to the industry and electrical basics that prepare students for their first-year apprenticeship classes. Second, the exposure they provide helps participants decide if the electrical trade is really for them. That reduces drop-outs and opens up opportunities for people who truly want to make a career in the IBEW.

In our locals that have strong pre-apprenticeship programs, we're seeing an IBEW that looks increasingly like the communities we serve. That means more women, more people of color and people from a wider range of backgrounds than before. And that's a good thing.

You've also heard us talk about VEEP, the Veterans Electrical Entry Program, where we offer members of our military the opportunity to complete their first year of apprenticeship study before they're discharged from active duty. It's another version of a pre-apprenticeship, and another way we're making the IBEW stronger with every graduate.

In our two countries, we've got an enormous untapped pool of talent — people of all ages, races, genders and backgrounds — who have something to contribute. Pre-apprenticeships are an important tool in offering those people the same opportunities we've had, and the IBEW stands to gain so much from their inclusion.

Through programs like these, I'm fully committed to expanding membership in an inclusive way, securing more work for you and our signatory contractors and continuing to ensure that the IBEW is the greatest union in North America. Thank you all for your support.


Also: Cooper: Using Our Power Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President