The Electrical Worker online
March 2022

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A Career for Everyone

Like so many of you, the day I joined the IBEW was a turning point in my life. Belonging to this great brotherhood allowed me to seize control of my own future and make a comfortable middle-class life for myself and my family.

I found my way into the IBEW after a few years of college and searching for the right fit. For others, the IBEW is a family tradition. Some of you chose this path after leaving the military or even after many years in another career. Let me be clear: There's no wrong way to join the IBEW and earn the respect you deserve on the job.

But this month I'd like to talk about reaching young people to help them consider all the options available to them in the trades before they make important decisions about their futures. And that starts in high school.

For way too long, schools have been pushing young people into four-year degrees as the only option for success. But we know the truth. College isn't for everyone, and in many cases substandard colleges are preying on kids and turning them out into a world saddled with debt and facing grim job prospects.

Meanwhile, the demand for skilled tradesmen and women is skyrocketing. In many jurisdictions, the median starting salary for an IBEW apprentice is significantly higher than the salary for an entry-level college graduate. And with the IBEW, there's no debt, no cost, no four-year delay in building for your future.

I'm not saying every high school graduate should join the IBEW, but for those who aren't sure that college is the right choice, it's on you and me and every IBEW local union to reach those young people and educate them on the opportunities that could be there for them in the trades.

In Canada this January, the government launched an advertising campaign to promote the skilled trades as a strong first-choice career path for youth and young adults. First District International Vice President Tom Reid and his staff were an integral part of the process and deserve a lot of credit for helping to push for this pro-worker policy. That's the kind of forward thinking we need from government at every level.

In the U.S., many local unions are out in their community's schools regularly making young people aware of the opportunity an apprenticeship brings, too.

In this month's "My IBEW Story," you'll meet a young woman who wouldn't have been a part of this great union without a high school shop teacher who showed her that there was a different path. A school field trip to the local hall led to her being accepted as an apprentice and making a career in the electrical trade.

We're stronger as a union when we reach beyond our walls and invite our communities' young people in. Keep spreading the gospel of the trades and the union movement. We're changing lives for the better.


Also: Stephenson: Investing in Organizing Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer