The NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center reopened apprentice classes in June after closing temporarily for three months due to COVID-19. After months of planning and preparation, including using our largest rooms and auditorium to allow for social distancing, requiring one-way traffic in and out of classrooms and modifying labs to reduce the number of students, we had no reported incidents of COVID contracted by a student due to their time in the classroom.
We are pretty pleased that after completing 500,000 student classroom hours – 500 students – we had no close contact incidents or effect. Obviously, our policies and plan were successful.
Apprentices spend one day a week in class for 11 weeks, twice a year. The other four days of those weeks are spent on job sites learning under the supervision of journeymen. Depending on the program they are in, they are enrolled in either three, four or five years of classroom and jobsite training.
Because this past term was so successful, we are opening the online apprentice application process for our three different programs. The Limited Energy Technician application opened on Nov. 1, Limited Residential Electrician opened on Dec. 1 and Inside Electrician will open on Jan. 1.
All three programs will use a new online application process that was developed to address issues with in-person applications. Previously, applications were accepted at the Training Center office only on Wednesdays during a specific month. The new process allows applicants to apply at their convenience and not miss work to apply in-person. This is one of the outcomes of the pandemic that is working successfully, and we intend to keep it going.
The training center continues to be closed to the outside public, and all journeymen classes continue by videoconference only. We are not ready to do those in person yet. This is the only complaint we are getting, and we continue to look for solutions. However, we have started interviewing apprentice applicants in person by appointment only and spacing the meetings so that we don’t have large numbers of people in the building at one time.
We continue to keep our training center operating with the highest level of regard for safety, first and foremost, without sacrificing the quality of training. We believe in being leaders in safety, both in the classroom and in the workplace, as our apprentices and journeymen continue their essential work.
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.