Maryland High School
Teaches JATC Curriculum
At the Local 307 training school in Cumberland,
Maryland, some of the best first-year apprentices enter with two
years of key wiring experience, thanks to a local technical high
school curriculum that offers the best electrical construction instruction
while steering them down the path of IBEW membership.
Allegany County’s technical/vocational school is one of the
first in the United States to adopt an IBEW curriculum. The two-year
course is taught by Local 307 member Ed Taylor.
"I’m giving back something to the community and I’m
spreading the union word," said Taylor, a 34-year IBEW member
and certified instructor at the Center for Career and Technology
in Cumberland. "Whenever I start talking about what it takes
to be successful, that’s what I push."
Taylor’s 30 students are juniors and seniors recruited from
the county’s four high schools. Once seen as the dumping ground
for poor-performing students, the vocational school has benefited
from high-quality programs like Taylor’s.
When students enter Taylor’s class as juniors, they get the
basic introduction to electrical construction, with an emphasis
on residential wiring. Because of the trade’s required proficiency
in communications and basic math, extra reading and algebra lessons
supplement the junior year lessons, Taylor said. At the end of the
year, they take the Local 307 NJATC aptitude exam, the same one
given any potential IBEW recruit before acceptance into the JATC
program. Approximately 40 percent pass the test.
The following year, those who pass enter advanced electric, or
what has become known as the "union program," which uses
the first-year apprenticeship curriculum. If they finish that year
successfully, they win an interview at the Local 307 JATC. They
enter as second-year apprentices—if they are ultimately accepted
into the program—but still have to complete the school’s
requirement of 8,000 hours on the job. Winning a slot as an apprentice
is often difficult because of the increasingly competitive nature
of the program and the limited number of openings.
The two years of high school coursework also entitles the students
to eight hours of college credit toward an associate’s (two-year)
degree in applied science. And Taylor said the high school leg-up
given the students increases their chances of success in the IBEW.
"If I hadn’t had my apprenticeship, I don’t know
where I’d be right now," Taylor said. "And if I
give the local good apprentices who are going to stick with the
trade, that’s all the thanks I need."
The four-year-old high school/IBEW tie-in is a product of Local
307 Training Director Jim Robertson’s lobbying the school
board. "They embraced it wholeheartedly," Robertson said.
"This is another way for the students to be put to work in
their counties. They are available to work here and they also have
the option of going out of town."
Today, seven apprentices in the Local 307 training program are
Tayor’s former students.
"These kids coming from the career center are among the top
15 or 20 percent in their classes," Robertson said. "They
rank high in training aptitude and work ethic and safety. It’s
what you’re looking for in an IBEW apprentice, without a doubt."
The local’s jurisdiction spreads across five counties in
western Maryland and West Virginia and Robertson considers it part
of his job to visit all of the schools in the area. While he is
attempting to convince other counties to adopt the IBEW curriculum,
he does not limit himself to secondary schools. Training school
representatives visit job fairs and after school programs, showing
films about becoming a union electrician and emphasizing the importance
of math and English.
"The payoff is making people aware of what a union construction
worker does and to show them we are an educated body," Robertson
said. "We’re working with the community to raise the
bar in general."
On a recent visit to Taylor’s class, Robertson said a junior
reminded him of his visit to her 10th grade class and
said: "You said that ladies can do the same work as men. Well,
here I am." Robertson said, "There are people out there
who are listening and there are better people coming in through
That young woman, Taylor said, is an A student as well as a leader
with plans to pursue a career through the apprenticeship program.
Union crafts are not alone in recognizing the value of secondary
technical schools for recruiting the next generation of electrical
workers. Nonunion electrical contractors sponsor a statewide annual
skills competition Taylor’s students attend each spring. At
the competition last March, Taylor said his students were plied
with business cards and at least one job offer from the nonunion
contractors. The nonunion Associated Builders and Contractors reportedly
makes millions selling its own training materials to public schools,
said National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Executive
Director A.J. Pearson.
"There’s not much meat in the ABC program," Pearson
said. "They might as well use our materials."
Pearson said there are few public schools using the NJATC curriculum.
"If you’ve got the right person teaching, it’s
a good way to promote the IBEW," he said.
Aaron Ranker, 17, is a senior in Taylor’s class who said
he is pursuing his goal of becoming a journeyman wireman and eventually
owning his own business. This summer he has a job lined up doing
residential wiring. But if he can get in, he is heading for the
Local 307 training school. "The union has more benefits and
better job opportunities, things like that," he said.