Apprenticeship Booms in Electroindustry

Apprenticeship Booms in Electroindustry

This piece was originally published in the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Chrissy L. Skudera, Director, Curriculum Writing, Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)

Busy Interior Of Engineering Workshop
IEC students receive on-the-job training, as well as classroom and lab instruction. Image courtesy of IEC.

Apprenticeship began thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. The Babylonian code of law, the Code of Hammurabi, required that an artisan treat his apprentice like a son. Apprenticeship also played an essential role in the construction and the arts of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Although these examples do not encompass modern day trades, they do affirm that people have been transferring skills from one generation to another since 2100 B.C.

Today’s apprenticeship programs are much different than those in ancient times, but they still play an important part. In the U.S., there are approximately 448,000 apprentices spanning a variety of trades. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the electrical industry is expected to experience a 23 percent growth rate between 2010 and 2020 for electricians. This rate is higher than the national average.

When a person enrolls in an apprenticeship program, he or she receives a combination of on-the-job training and technical classroom instruction. This “earn as you learn” model provides workers with advanced skills that meet the needs of employers. In many cases, an employer pays for an employee’s education, leaving the employee without student debt.

A registered apprenticeship, such as the Independent Electrical Contractor’s (IEC) four-year apprentice program, is a nationally-recognized credential. These programs must meet the requirements of the National Apprenticeship Act, which is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship or an approved state apprenticeship agency.

In 2015, more than 52,500 students graduated from apprenticeships, according to the DOL. IEC has more than 50 chapter training centers nationwide that, in a good economy, provide training to almost 10,000 apprentices annually. Because IEC students are taught by instructors with extensive experience in their fields, they graduate with the skills and knowledge to work in many different environments—indoor and outdoor, hazardous and nonhazardous, medical, residential, commercial, and industrial. They are able to install electrical products—such as those manufactured by NEMA members—ranging from wires, receptacles, and motors to larger equipment, such as rooftop solar arrays and backup power systems.

Perhaps the most important benefit of completing an apprenticeship program, however, is that an apprentice can turn the job into a long-term career. With a little ambition, an apprentice electrician can work toward becoming a journeyman electrician, a foreman, a project manager, a master electrician, or even the owner of an electrical contracting company.

Although apprenticeships no longer focus on building terra cotta shrines or carving marble sculptures, the teaching model remains the same—a master craftsman sharing knowledge and experience with a student. To be an apprentice today translates to exciting opportunities in the future, and that’s something to celebrate and embrace as our country’s population and infrastructure needs continue to grow.

Read the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

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