Memphis JATC instructors Ben Jones, left, and Greg Reasons celebrated Memphis Local 474’s new training center at a grand opening on Sept. 8.
Photo credit: TR Lenz Photography

Since Memphis, Tenn., Local 474 received its official apprenticeship charter in 1947, instructors have trained well over 1,000 apprentices. But it wasn’t until this year that they finally got a building of their own in which to do it.

“It was a long time coming,” said Local 474 Business Manager Paul Shaffer. “I’m very proud of all the work and collaboration that made this happen.”

Prior to the new training center, classes were held in the union hall’s basement or at local high schools, said Clovis Brown, Memphis Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Center training director. Instructors shared the classrooms with other adult learning programs, making it impossible to leave the rooms set up for the next night if a topic or lab wasn’t completed.

Now, they have 10 state-of-the-art classrooms and six dedicated labs including one for conduit fabrication and one for motor control. Another, a transformer, grounding and bonding lab, comes with eight workstations. The 20,000-square-foot building can hold more than 200 students.

“Our instructors have always provided the best training, but with this new facility they can make it even more meaningful,” Brown said.

Local 474 hosted a grand opening ceremony on Sept. 8, attended by more than 100 people, including International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper and 10th District Vice President Brent Hall.

“It’s not just a building, it’s a testament to the hard work of everyone involved,” Hall said. “They’ve got a reason to brag.”

The opening was a great success, Shaffer said, but it was overshadowed by the sudden death just weeks before of training committee member Allen Andersen. He was involved in every aspect of the facility, from the purchasing and renovation to the selection of furniture and the photos on the walls, said Local 474 President Glenn Greenwell.

“I cannot walk the halls of this building and not see Allen’s personal touch,” Greenwell said. “This school was a source of great pride to him.”

The building was previously leased by a business school, which allowed instructors to hold classes soon after the purchase in 2014 since the teaching space was already there. Full renovations were completed earlier this year.

The local membership elected to contribute part of their wages toward the cost of the building, and the National Electrical Contractors Association matched the amount, Greenwell said. Local business partners also donated supplies.

There’s a huge void to fill in terms of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs, Shaffer said. At a recent career fair held by the local, more than 50 people attended, and some applied that night. 

“Union work is booming in Memphis right now,” Greenwell said. “With this center, we can train people in a usable skill that provides an excellent wage and benefits. That’s an opportunity a lot of them wouldn’t have if it weren’t for our apprenticeship program.”