Indianapolis Local 481 member Paul Meyers

Every year, the IBEW awards scholarships worth up to $24,000 to help cultivate a new generation of leadership in the union and the electrical industry.

For 2023, the Founders' Scholarship application deadline is June 1, and International President Kenneth W. Cooper wants every eligible member to consider applying.

"Our industries are some of the most dynamic and challenging, not just in the trades but everywhere. A constant striving toward excellence is the hallmark of the IBEW worker," Cooper said. "The Founders' Scholarship is our way to ensure union members are in every conversation shaping the future of our work."

everett, wash., local 191 member filmon ali
Chicago Local 134 member Ryan Madiar
South Bend, Ind., Local 153 Assistant Business Manager Jason Piontek

The four scholars in the newest class are all seeking graduate degrees: two in human resources and labor management, one in learning design and technology in education, and the fourth in construction management.

Award decisions are based on an essay, transcripts from high school or college, and "potential, social awareness and career goals," said Jim Voye, director of the Research Department and head of the scholarship committee.

"The scholarship is one of the benefits of membership, and more people should take advantage of it," he said. "It can make the difference between getting and not getting a degree, which can be life-changing."

The 2022 Winners

Filmon Ali topped out of Everett, Wash., Local 191's apprenticeship program in 2021, the same year he earned a bachelor's degree in construction management from Rowan University.

Ali resurrected the local's Electrical Worker Minority Caucus committee, said Business Manager Craig Jones, and he now chairs it. He will use the grant to complete a master's in construction management with the goal of strengthening the IBEW's commitment to diversity in our membership and expanding opportunities for all people in the building trades.

This is Chicago Local 134 member Ryan Madiar's second go-round in graduate school. He started a master's in applied linguistics after earning a degree in German as an undergraduate before taking a Local 134 apprenticeship.

Twelve years after topping out, he is now a business representative in Chicago managing almost 30 collective bargaining agreements at more than two dozen employers representing 500 members.

Since 2017, Madiar has been enrolled almost continuously in workshops, certifications and college classes about labor-management relations.

"To continuously improve, you must never stop learning. There is always more to do," Madiar said. "The work of the labor movement is never done."

While earning a certificate in union labor leadership at DePaul University, Madiar wrote a reference guide and handbook on collective bargaining for the local's reps and stewards. The guide, said Matthew Cleveland, Local 134's general counsel, was concise, effective, accurate and useful. It also showed in bright relief the qualities the scholarship committee is looking for: character, heart and a drive for excellence.

"He not only has a thirst for knowledge but wishes to share that knowledge through action and education," Cleveland said.

Madiar will use the scholarship to complete a master's in human resources and employment relations at Penn State University with a double concentration in labor law and collective bargaining.

Indianapolis Local 481 member Paul Meyers is not just a lifelong student but a full-time master instructor with his local JATC and a curriculum specialist for the Electrical Training Alliance.

He wrote a textbook used across the country as part of the inside apprenticeship and was the lead author of two classroom lab manuals, including the electric vehicle charging installation program frequently highlighted by the White House.

"The building trades' apprenticeship system is one of the few opportunities that affords individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds an opportunity to live a life fulfilled with a stable income, health care and a supportive community," he said. "I have witnessed firsthand the power of education to provide upward mobility for students born into an environment that otherwise provided few opportunities."

Meyers is returning to the other side of the lectern to learn new techniques and educational models for teaching the tech-savvy younger workers now dominating the IBEW's apprenticeship system. He is working toward a master of science in education degree at Purdue University.

Local 481 Business Representative Lance Bradbury put the goals of the Founders Scholarship succinctly in his recommendation of Meyers.

"His goals are our goals," Bradbury said.

South Bend, Ind., Local 153 Assistant Business Manager Jason Piontek is the fourth recipient of the 2022 scholarship awards.

After six years in the U.S. Army, Piontek was initiated into the IBEW in 1998 and earned his bachelor's in labor studies at Indiana University while working as a foreman and serving on the examining board.

Local 153 Business Manager Brian O'Donnell said some of Piontek's most critical work is done on the many public boards and commissions he has served on, including the South Bend Plan Commission and South Bend Public Works and Property Vacation Committee and as vice president of the Northern Indiana American Labor Federation.

Piontek will use his scholarship to complete his studies in the human resources and employment relations graduate program at Penn State.

"The Founders' Scholarship is a program to support the leaders in our ranks to become leaders throughout our industries and our nation," Voye said. "Every one of the winners is among the best we have to offer, but we know there are many, many more of you out there."

More information and the application for the Founders' Scholarship can be found at