The IBEW and its training partners have developed some of the most highly-regarded apprenticeship programs in the building trades throughout the years. Leaders at Youngstown, Ohio, Local 64 are hoping for similar success as they invest in higher education.

Local 64 and the Mahoning Valley chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association have endowed a scholarship at Youngstown State University that will assist a member or signatory contractor employee working toward a degree in a discipline that benefits the electrical industry.

The $1,000 scholarship will be given on an annual basis beginning in September. The winner must enroll or be enrolled in Youngstown State’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Electrical engineering, civil and construction engineering technology and business management are some of the areas in which students can pursue degrees in. Deadline to apply is May 1.

Jack Savage from the Mahoning Valley NECA chapter presents a check to Brian Nord of the Youngstown State University Foundation to signify the beginning of an endowed scholarship at the school funded by Local 64 and NECA. They were joined by Local 64 Business Manager James Burgham and Local 64 President William Booth and NECA’s John Rafoth.

“We provide the apprenticeship program that we think is a great opportunity for young people,” said Local 64 Business Manager James Burgham, who also is a member of the International Executive Council. “You get an education, career and no financial debt in getting it. Why not continue that and give our membership a chance to go back to school and enhance their careers?”

“We think it really fits along the line of labor-management relationships,” Burgham added.

Applicants who have shown a longtime commitment to working in the electrical industry will be given priority by the selection committee, Burgham said.

“We wanted to tie it in to the industry and hopefully, give it to someone who can make a substantial contribution to the industry,” he said.

Burgham said much of the credit for the scholarship goes to longtime Local 64 member Jim Geller, the owner of Geller Electric, Inc., before retiring in 2008. Geller also is a trustee for the Youngstown State University Foundation, a private, non-profit board and the developmental entity for the university.

“Our goal is to benefit the membership and the employees of the signatory contractors so that they can advance their careers,” Geller said. “Our hope is that they stay in the industry and become leaders and look for ways to enhance it.”

Brian Nord, a development officer with the foundation who worked closely with NECA and Local 64 to set up the scholarship, said Local 64 has long provided support for the university. The scholarship takes that a step further, he said.

“When a group like Local 64 sets up an endowed scholarship, they’re setting something up that will be given in perpetuity and will help the people within their trade forever,” Nord said. “It’s set up to be given to people year after year after year. That’s a powerful thing.”

Nord said the scholarship also aids the university overall because it is another step in President Jim Tressel’s plan to hold down tuition costs. Tressel, the former football coach at both Youngstown and Ohio State, has been the school’s president since 2014.

“Youngtown is a working-class, blue-collar area and always has been,” Nord said. “The more endowed scholarships that we can set up, the more it benefits kids from the area and outside the area.”

Burgham said the local building trades council in Youngstown has had a similar scholarship program with Youngstown State for several years and it served as something of a model.  Local 64 has had a close relationship with the local university, too. It contributes to the foundation and also advertises at the school’s sporting events.

“We’ve always worked closely with YSU in our area,” he said.

It’s been a big few months for Local 64. It is now accepting bids for a new apprentice training center that is expected to cost about $1.2 million.

“Work is slow right now, but we need to prepare for the future,” Burgham said. “We’ve come off a good five years. We have to keep our members prepared for the future and apprentices ready for the future.”

Home page photo credit: Kenny Louie under a Creative Commons/Flickr