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Training For Electrical Workers In The State Of Ohio ‘Adjusts’ To The Coronavirus

Published Tuesday, May 26, 2020
by The Youngstown (Ohio) Business Journal
Training For Electrical Workers In The State Of Ohio ‘Adjusts’ To The Coronavirus

(YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO) - Not long ago, the main challenge facing Electrician Training Programs sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) was finding candidates to become Apprentices.  Now, with the Coronavirus Pandemic restricting how education can be delivered to students from pre-kindergarten through college, Training Providers have to navigate a new landscape.

“It’s ‘been a bit of a challenge,’” said Ed Emerick, who serves as the Training Director for the Youngstown Area Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC).

For both the Youngstown JATC, which is affiliated with IBEW Local 64 and the IBEW Local 572 JATC in Champion, on-line instruction has taken on a growing role.

Fortunately, that was a familiar one for the IBEW Locals’ Training Programs.

“All of the coursework, homework and everything has been done on-line ‘for about the last six years anyway,’” says Eric Davis, the Training Director at the Trumbull County JATC Center.

The Youngstown Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee has also been using the video-conferencing platform Zoom.

“They’ve ‘saved us, really,’” Emerick said. “By the time we would have gotten involved in a Google Classroom or some other platform, ‘we would have missed too much school.’”

The 50 students in the program are now caught up to where they would normally be.

The JATC in Champion also moved into video conferencing for instruction of its 40 Apprentices, Local 573’s Davis says.

“It’s ‘going fairly well,’” he reports. “There are some things ‘that just don’t lend itself to that.’ There are ‘essential elements’ of Apprenticeship training ‘that you need to have hands-on training, which can’t be done at home.’”

Hands-on lab instruction takes place at the JATC centers in Boardman and Champion.

The shutdowns occurred after the majority of the heavy lab assignments had been completed by the current students, Emerick said.

As stay-at-home orders are eased, the plan is to begin bringing students back in small groups for hands-on training, Davis says.

“A lot of this depends on the governor and when he is going to open up a bit more of the educational side of society,” Emerick said.

Some of the coursework probably will need to be made up in the Fall, if possible.

The pandemic disruption comes as demand remains high for Electricians.

The Trade, like many of its Labor Brethren, is facing a shortage as Journeymen retire.

“We’re getting calls from folks.  We’re trying to figure out a way to do interviews and basically carry on business as normal as possible without having folks come into a meeting where there might be eight people interviewing them,” Emerick said.

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