September 2011

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New Web Site Highlights 'Vivid' Telecom Careers

The telecommunications industry remains strong despite today's weak economy, and the graying of the baby boom generation means new career opportunities are opening up in the industry every day.

The National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning has launched the Web site to assist anyone interested in working or advancing in the industry.

NACTEL is a partnership between the telecommunications industry and unions working with educators to create and sponsor online education programs that meet the needs of current and future telecommunications professionals.

"Our industry depends on highly skilled workers," says AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson. "And is a great training and educational resource for new telecom job seekers as well as those wanting to grow within the industry." features a job-matching tool that helps seekers match their skill and education level—along with interests and location—with desired positions.

The site also contains a career-mapping tool that shows new telecom workers the kind of career path they can pursue with the right training and experience.

The Web site lists more than 300 education and training programs — from cable and satellite basics to broadband fundamentals.

"Our members are continually searching for education that will prepare them for new directions in telecommunications," says IBEW Media Department Director and NACTEL co-chair, Jim Spellane. "The fact that houses educational resources and lists open telecom jobs makes it a most valuable asset for our industry and for those seeking to enter or advance in this dynamic field."

One member who recently used the Web site to advance his future is Scott Blauth. The East Winsor, N.J., Local 827 member who just earned his bachelor's degree in telecommunications from NACTEL, says that " opens up a new variety of jobs for people."

Go to to learn more.

The VIVID Web site helps connect job-seekers with good jobs in the growing telecommumications industry.

Rochester Local Scores Victory for Fair Bargaining

In a victory for collective bargaining rights, members of Rochester, N.Y., Local 36 got Rochester Gas & Electric Co., to reverse its policy regarding the use of GPS tracking devices—a major sticking point between the union and the company for more than a year.

The utility installed the devices in 20 of its service vehicles in 2010 without consulting with the local. "Management told us they didn't have to bargain and it was a done deal," says Business Manager Rick Irish.

Employees were concerned about the lack of any kind of disciplinary policy regarding GPS use, with many questioning the accuracy of the devices.

"There was a lot of unnecessary uncertainty and anxiety because the company didn't sit down with us first," says Irish.

The local accused the utility of refusing to bargain in good faith, filing unfair labor charges late last year. The National Labor Relations Board agreed in a May ruling.

"We will bargain with the union over the installation/activation and use of GPS tracking devices in company vehicles prior to installing such devices,'' the company—which promptly removed the devices—announced in an official NLRB notice to employees.

For Irish, the settlement is a timely reminder of the importance of having a contract and fair bargaining procedures. "It is simple fact that if they had acknowledged our rights in the beginning and sat down and bargained, it would have saved everybody a lot of time and money," he says.

Amid Celebrations, Shipyard Apprentices Face Uncertainty

More than 160 shipyard workers graduated from the Ingalls Shipbuilding's Apprentice School July 9.

Sponsored by Huntington Ingalls Industries, graduates represented 13 different crafts from the Ingalls and Avondale shipyards—including many IBEW members from Pascagoula, Miss., Local 733. The apprenticeship program is a two- to four-year curriculum for workers looking to expand their careers in the shipbuilding industry.

Students take classes while working full time. Management allows them two hours of classwork on company time, but most studies are done off the clock, Local 733 Business Manager Jim Couch says. The curriculum consists of both on-the-job training and classroom time at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

With more than 120 classes available, graduates find shipbuilding positions in everything from electrical engineering to executive management—helping to build America's maritime future.

One former IBEW graduate is Melissa Boykin. A high-school dropout, her professional options were limited. "But I knew I liked to work with my hands, math and solving problems," she says.

So she jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the electrical apprenticeship program. After working for eight years at the Ingalls shipyard at Pascagoula, she entered the school's engineering apprenticeship program. Today she works as a designer for Huntington Ingalls Industries, drafting plans and doing technical writing for upgrades to Navy ships.

"When I first started working at the yard, I could have never imagined being where I am today," says Boykin. "The shipyard program was my stepping stone to a great career."

But the celebration may be short lived for Avondale employees. The Northrop Grumman facility, located outside New Orleans, is set to shut down by next year, threatening the jobs of more than 5,000 skilled workers on the Gulf Coast.

Cutbacks to the Navy's budget put war ships produced by Avondale on permanent hold, threatening the economic future of a region that was badly battered by Hurricane Katrina and last year's BP oil spill.

IBEW Government Employees Department Director Chico McGill said the skills offered by the program could easily be used to help civilian and other maritime manufacturing efforts.

The Save Our Shipyards blog, published by the AFL-CIO's Metal Trades Department, writes that with the new federal American Marine Highway initiative to help encourage intranational maritime trade, a new market for U.S.-built commercial cargo vessels is likely to open up on American waterways—a niche that Avondale could easily fill.

"The skills these students have gained are invaluable to not only shipbuilding but to rejuvenating our manufacturing sector and we need elected officials to prioritize getting them to work rebuilding a strong economy," says McGill.


In our August story "IBEW Members Ratify GE Contract" we incorrectly state that under the new GE contract, current retirees will receive an extra pension check each year. They will receive an extra check for this year only. We regret the error.

More than 160 apprentices graduated from the Ingalls Shipbuilding's Apprentice School this summer, but their careers could be put on hold if the Avondale Shipyard goes ahead with plans to shut down.