Electrician apprentice training center prepared for new normal

NECA/IBEW office
Rod Belisle, Director of the Electrical Training

The NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center restarted apprentice classes on June 22 after a three month pause due to Covid-19. We worked since mid-March to prepare for the reopening.

Our apprentices spend one day a week in class for 11 weeks, twice a year. The other four days are spent on jobsites learning under the supervision of journeymen. Depending on the program, apprentices are enrolled in either three, four or five years of classroom and jobsite training.

We have prepared classrooms so that all students will have social distancing in place while in class. We are utilizing our largest rooms and even the auditorium is used as a classroom. We recently completed new construction that added two new classrooms, and without them we may not have had the necessary space. We are either lucky or great at planning.

The classroom concept maintains social distancing between students at all times. One-way traffic is used in and out of classrooms. Many labs have been modified to reduce the number of students in the lab at a given time, and we have put up barriers or relocated lab materials for further safety.

The training center is still closed to the outside public. Entrance and egress policies have been established for students, along with health questionnaires and contact tracing forms that must be signed every day of class.

The training center also offers continuing education programs for journeymen, but for now all in-person classes have been canceled. Because of the importance of these programs, we have been using Zoom to conduct some classes, but enrollment is limited. We hope to expand these opportunities over time.

Barry Moreland, our safety director, has been very active during this pandemic. He and other safety leaders have evaluated what is being done in the field, and we are now employing all of those measures here at the training center.

We have prepared our training center at the highest level possible with complete regard for safety, first and foremost, without sacrificing quality of training. This creates safety both in the classroom and in the workplace as apprentices and journeymen continue their essential jobs.

For more information on steps NECA/IBEW 48 is taking to keep its workforce safe, visit the website at www.necaibew48.com/covid-19-safety.

Rod Belisle is the director of the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in Portland since 2008. He served previously as the assistant director beginning in 2001, and an instructor, starting in 1994. He is a member of the Northern Oregon Works’ Workforce Investment Board and the Oregon State Workforce Talent and Development Board.

For over a century, NECA/IBEW Local 48’s electricians have helped build Oregon and southwest Washington. NECA and IBEW Local 48 have partnered in labor-management relations to lead the region’s electrical industry, working on such high profile projects as the Rose Garden Arena, Portland International Airport and MAX Light Rail stations.