Future Electricians Earn While They Learn

As the special projects coordinator for an IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) local in Newark, Ohio, and an advisor for IBEW’s apprenticeship program, I work with high schools to build pre-apprenticeship programs for those who are interested in upskilling and finding their way into a trade. Being on the New Lexington Schools Business Advisory Council is a great opportunity to partner with schools to prepare the future workforce. We have a great relationship with New Lexington High School, which recently added building trades as a CTE pathway. We partnered with them to supplement this pathway with a credentialing course for students who are interested in electrical careers.

This partnership helps meet our region’s huge need for electricians and apprentices. Intel, Facebook, Google, and Amazon data centers are all in our region, so we are the future Silicon Valley of Ohio. Through this program, students are receiving credits to graduation, but more importantly, they are receiving a path to a career. I love meeting students like Chase and encouraging them to learn about pre-apprenticeship and the great career opportunities available through apprenticeship.

We began the rollout of our state-recognized pre-apprenticeship program with New Lexington High School. Students complete our first-year curriculum, called the interim credentials (created by the Electrical Training Alliance), as a self-paced online course with a virtual reality component that allows them to experience a job site virtually. Students learn about the electrical industry, apprenticeship, and employment in general, and they receive job-specific knowledge such as electrical theory, how to wire devices, and how conductors and insulators work. The national average time to complete the interim credentials is 220 hours. Chase is one of two New Lexington students who finished in less than half that time.

After completing the interim credentials, students receive a certificate and can interview for just about any apprenticeship program across the nation. Chase has interviewed for our local IBEW program; in late spring, a committee will select candidates. Chase is on track to be admitted, and we’re hopeful that he’ll soon be one of our new apprentices. In the meantime, he’s doing great as a pre-apprentice.

Students, schools, and local businesses all benefit from the Business Advisory Council partnerships. Students and schools can learn about our career paths that help students who work with us earn over $60,000 right out of high school. IBEW benefits by directly sharing our needs for soft and hard skills in our future workforce. This partnership also helps us intentionally bridge representation gaps and bring more equity and inclusion to our workforce. We are working directly with our schools to point more female students and students of color into our programs.

I encourage schools to consider offering pre-apprenticeships. It’s an opportunity that I never heard about when I was in high school because everyone was talking about college for all. Today the conversation has shifted to “college-ready for all,” which is a great direction for students. All our apprentices earn college credits as they complete challenging coursework with strict academic performance requirements. But they also get access to the trades, which is an amazing path for many, many people. It’s great to be part of a partnership that helps students make the connection between their academic learning and their future careers.

–Daryl Jones, special projects coordinator, Newark Electric Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee; member, New 
Lexington Schools Business Advisory Council

American Educator, Spring 2024