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Electrical Safety Month: Raising awareness about protecting electrical workers

 

electrician at electrical box with helmet and safety goggles on.

Every May, Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month. It’s a time to give workers a voice and highlight innovative ways we can make workplaces safer.

At Electrical Alliance, we advocate for making working conditions as safe as possible by organizing as a union and prioritizing workers’ rights. Our goal is to use the power of organizing to make safer working conditions the standard for all contractors.

Work fatalities disproportionally affect Latino and non-union workers

Sadly, one major safety issue is the fact that worker fatalities disproportionally affect Latino workers and non-union workers. In April, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland held the second annual Building Trades’ Workers Memorial Day Mass. At this event, attendees remembered the 19 construction workers who died at worksites in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia this past year. One of the church’s priests noted that 13 of the 19 men who died were Latinos, and all 19 who died at job sites were non-union workers.

Seminars to raise awareness about work hazards

To help raise awareness about hazards facing electrical workers as a whole, we and our partners are involved in several important initiatives for National Electrical Safety Month. There have been a variety of seminars to educate the industry and the greater public about changes we can make to improve working conditions.

To kick off Electrical Safety Month, the Washington DC NECA Chapter and IBEW Local 26 put on a seminar that focused on common hazards affecting the electrical construction industry.

For example, Rich Gojdics, Senior VP of Sales at Enerpro PPE, provided an overview of how everyday clothing when facing electrical hazards can significantly increase the severity of the burns. He discussed how, even though the electrical industry is moving towards doing more electrical work in a de-energized state, there are still some activities that place qualified electrical workers in harm’s way. Arc rated clothing that meets design standards still plays a significant role in reducing the severity of electrical injuries when faced by workers.

Electrical hazards continue to be a large concern, but there are also other emerging hazards that need to be tackled. Washington, DC NECA contractor and safety committee memberships have joined efforts to address mental health issues and suicide, which are on the rise in construction.

To help raise awareness of these issues, Lynn Berger from BHS  ran a session on the mental health risks experienced by workers. She focussed on three main themes: how to recognize risky behaviors, how to establish successful interventions and, most importantly, where to get help for those in need.

Workers’ safety impacts everyone

There is so much that must be done to improve worksite safety. Across the board, an important takeaway is the role unions play in ensuring these improvements are put in place. Unions make it possible to amplify workers’ voices and, when their voices are amplified, real change takes root.

That’s why, at Electrical Alliance, we help provide the safest workplaces for each and every one of our members. Ultimately, when workers are safe, supported, and empowered, the effects ripple out to their families and communities at large.

We’re stronger together, so we must do what’s necessary to ensure safety across the board.

Total Electric Inc. is providing second chances for the incarcerated

electrical technicians working on a pol
Technicians are repairing high voltage transmission systems on electric poles.

For the incarcerated, mentorship and employment opportunities are key to a successful “second chance” outside of prison. Total Electric Inc. is providing just that by hiring inmates and former inmates through the Maryland Department of Corrections and Reentry Program.

Lester McCrobe is a Superintendent/ Safety Director with Total Electric Inc. who has worked in the field for 37 years. He led Total Electric’s inmate initiative after being inspired by his uncle who served 42 years in prison. While doing his time, McCrobe’s uncle worked various jobs for the Maryland Correctional Enterprise metal shop, which armed him with a solid work plan once he was released. 

Seeing how this opportunity benefited his uncle’s transition prompted McCrobe to offer inmates similar opportunities through Total Electric. So, he pursued the Department of Corrections and Reentry Program and got things in order. Today, Total Electric provides employment, home plans, and work plans for inmates and former inmates, helping them successfully reintegrate into society. 

“I wanted to pursue this because there is a great pool of people to pull from who have amazing discipline and are eager to learn,” McCrobe said.

McCrobe says some inmates have existing construction skills or prior electrical experience, while others have clerical skills such as warehouse training. Total Electric works with each individual to align their experience and help them build their skill sets as needed. They start working with the inmates in a prefab shop before transferring them to in-field work once they’re ready.  

“The workers are very appreciative of the opportunity,” said McCrobe. “They’re willing to do anything asked and are very devoted.”

When McCrobe visits the Maryland Correctional metal shop, he says inmates often ask him about home plans and employment upon their release. Knowing that this option is available to them gives them something to look forward to upon their release. 

Of course, challenges can arise sometimes when an inmate has been institutionalized. Depending on how long they were incarcerated, it may take some time for them to adapt to the outside world again. For this reason, McCrobe spends a few hours of his personal time each week meeting with the inmates. Other contractors at Total Electric also provide their support, which helps create a positive team atmosphere. They talk about the inmates’s goals in life and work, and what the inmate can do to stay focused on those goals. 

“It would not be possible for the inmates to make it on the streets in today’s society if it wasn’t for the contractors at Total Electric helping them out,” McCrobe said. 

So far, 80% of the inmates Total Electric has hired have successfully maintained a position with Total Electric. In fact, the first inmate Total Electric hired is still employed with them five years later, and has advanced greatly. This person has even started mentoring other inmates who have come to work with Total Electric. Many of the inmates also attend job fairs in prison systems and at various locations talking about their achievements since they were released. 

McCrobe hopes to continue helping inmates by providing electrical work and mentorship for many years. 

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” McCrobe said. “By empowering them to become skilled electricians, we can provide that second chance.” 

Statewide Journeyman and Apprentice License for Maryland Electricians

electrician cutting wires

Thanks to the Maryland Electricians Act, a statewide Journeyman and Apprentice License is finally available

For years, Local 26 electricians had to carry numerous county and city journeyman licenses to practice our trade in Maryland. Finally, this has changed.

The Maryland Electricians Act now offers a statewide Journeyman and Apprentice License. This license goes into effect July 1, 2022.

The Maryland Electricians Act comes after seven years of negotiation in the statehouse and plenty of testifying by your Local 26 representatives. We owe thanks to the bi-partisan effort led by Delegate (R) Kevin Hornberger and Senator (D) Cory McCray (IBEW Local 24 member).

This act brings plenty of important changes to the current licensure process for electricians on both the state and local level.

The crown jewel of the Maryland Electricians Act is an examination waiver for those who hold Maryland jurisdictional licenses. For example, if a worker holds a journeyman’s license in Montgomery County, they can simply apply electronically via the Electricians Act and a Montgomery County will then verify with the state. The worker will pay a nominal fee and then they will receive a Statewide Journeyman’s License without an exam. The deadline for this exam waiver is December 31, 2022.

Another important change to highlight in the Maryland Electricians Act is that it now requires at least one licensed master electrician or journeyperson electrician to be present at each electrical services jobsite. An apprentice electrician can no longer work on a jobsite without a licensed journeyperson electrician present.

There is not yet reciprocity with the District or the state of Virginia, but the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing is hopeful it can be done. Once in effect, we encourage all journeypersons to obtain and maintain a license in the District, Maryland, and Virginia.

By having a system of statewide-licensed journeypeople, we are helping to unite and support fellow Electrical Alliance contractors, the Local 26, and NECA.

To see the full list of changes brought in by the act, to apply for a License, or to enquire about any questions, go to Maryland Electricians Act.

How the Prince William Digital Gateway will provide hundreds of jobs in the electrical field

signal tower

At Electrical Alliance, we’re dedicated to supporting efforts that improve equality and create fruitful job opportunities for citizens, particularly jobs in the electrical field.

That’s why we’re proud to support the Prince William Digital Gateway. We want to bring awareness to the project and amplify the words of our very own Kyle McMillian, our Local 26 Organizer and active voice of the Prince William Digital Gateway initiative. 

By shining a light on McMillian’s personal story and the work he does, we hope to raise awareness of the possibilities the Digital Gateway could provide to Prince William County (PWC) residents. 

 

What is the Prince William Digital Gateway?

The Prince William Digital Gateway is a request dedicated to improving job opportunities, schools, parks, and quality of life for thousands of PWC residents. 

The Gateway’s goal is to comprehensively change the planning approval process in the PWC area so it’s possible for data centers to apply for planning approval. Currently, only large trucking facilities and residential developments can apply for planning approval. This results in an unequal playing field for PWC residents and a lack of viable wage and union construction jobs. 

Opening up the planning approval process will lead to game-changing commercial tax gains, job opportunities, and more. Together, these efforts will provide a substantial economic boost to the entire county and its citizens.

 

Kyle McMillian: A case study on how the Prince William Digital Gateway could lead to fruitful life-long careers

Kyle McMillian is a 20-year union member with IBEW Local 26. He lives in the Occoquan district and is proud to call Prince William County home. He is also a proud supporter of the PW Digital Gateway because he believes it will grant more citizens with union opportunities like the one that supports him. 

McMillian used to work at Giant grocery store but, when he learned about the wages and benefits of being a union member electrician, he jumped at the opportunity. Over the past two decades, he has been able to comfortably sustain his family with his career. 

“I wish I had known about union work right after high school,” McMillian said. “I tried college but I didn’t find the stability I wanted. Once I found this profession and the union, that’s when I could start building a career that gives me the great stability I need.”

McMillian wants to create a similar stable future for more people in PWC. Part of his rewarding work now includes recruiting other electricians into the profession and he wants to maximize the number of workers he can help through the PW Digital Gateway. 

“I can promise you this: When this project gets approved, I will recruit PWC residents myself who want to get a job in the electrical trade making over $100,000 a year,” he said. “This is an important project that will provide thousands of jobs for our neighbors.”

 

Vote yes for the Prince William Digital Gateway and the benefits it offers to the communities. 

The Prince William Digital Gateway will lead to better jobs, better schools, better parks, and a better quality of life for PWC residents. By signing this petition, you will let the Board of County Supervisors and Planning Commission know that you support the PW Digital Gateway and the opportunity it brings to all.

Students on a campus.

Why high school students are leaning towards apprenticeship programs more than ever

Survey shows less than half of high school students are opting for 4-year college degrees in favor of more career-oriented training programs.

For generations, high school students have felt societal and personal pressures to get a four-year college degree. According to 86% of high school students, that pressure still rings true today. But, it turns out, less than half of these students are actually considering pursuing such degrees.

ECMC Group’s Question the Quo Education Pulse surveys examined high schoolers’ attitudes about their future work and education throughout the pandemic. The surveys, conducted in partnership with VICE Media, included students ages 14-18. They were conducted in February 2020, May 2020, January 2021, and September 2021 to see how the teens’ thoughts around education and work shifted in the pandemic environment.

 

Students are saying “sayonara” to 4-year college

Between the fundamental shifts in education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of on-the-job learning provided in traditional college, students are changing the way they think about post-secondary education. Instead, they’re prioritizing options that offer a stronger direct connection between education and their career.

ECMC’s latest survey, conducted in September 2021, showed that the number of teens planning to attend a four year college continues to decrease. Less than half are now considering a four-year college degree, even though 86 percent feel pressure to pursue one.

 

A direct connection to a sustainable career is key

While tuition cost remains a big factor in choosing a school, one of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that a direct connection to a sustainable, well-paying job also ranks as a top factor. Students are extremely focussed on the connection between education and a future career, with 69 percent saying it is important to have on-the-job experiences like apprenticeships and internships.

The survey also showed that more than three quarters of students think about their education and career beyond high school at least weekly and half think about it daily. In addition, 53 percent of students surveyed believe they can achieve professional success with an education that is three years or less.

“These insights indicate teens are extremely tuned in to their future career path but need to know more about the education it takes to get there,” Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group, told Contractor Magazine. “Their focus has shifted on their future, weighing what matters most and cutting out the unnecessary. We have an opportunity to illuminate the pathways from high school to postsecondary education, on-the-job learning and careers, and the value education still holds for the future generations of workers.”

 

A different path: Electrical Alliance and Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee

These survey findings aren’t exactly surprising. After all, there truly is more than one path to success and the traditional classroom experience isn’t for everyone—not to mention the thousands of dollars in student loans that come with it.

With so many more students now rethinking a traditional four-year college degree, the Electrical Alliance and Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) program continues to ignite the careers for even more young people as they enter the workforce. This program trains the electrical and telecommunication workers employed by contractors of the IBEW Local 26 union, which covers the Washington, DC metropolitan area and central to southwest Virginia.

While not all students in the JATC programs are recent high school grads, many are. The program gives these students the ability to directly practice their trade while they learn so they can put their skills to work before graduating (unlike traditional college). For instance, students could learn a skill on Monday and apply it on the job the next day.

Program graduates have the opportunity to earn top dollar anywhere in the U.S., and even to transition from field work to the professional arena as a foremen, estimators, project managers, contractors or business owners. Like college, students have to apply to be accepted—not everyone is cut out for this competitive field. Unlike college, graduates are guaranteed to be well-certified for jobs in their field—and it won’t cost tens of thousands of dollars or require SAT scores for admittance.

 

Program Details: The JATC Tracks

The JATC offers three fully subsidized tracks that combine cutting-edge classroom and lab-based education with hands-on, in-the-field experience, putting apprentices on a path to great pay, best-in-class benefits and job security with growth potential.

 

Track 1: Inside Electrical

Inside Electrical is a 5-year program that gives students the perfect balance of instruction and on-the-job training. This is the most popular track chosen by recent high school graduates. Upon completing the program, students have an earning potential of over $96,000/year plus over $40,300 in health and retirement benefits.

During the first four years of the program, students attend one class every other week covering topics such as Ohm’s Law, AC/DC theory and fiber optic theory. For the remainder of their time, they are on the job site, applying the skills they’ve learned in areas like conduit bending, brand circuit wiring, panel and switchgear installations, and fire alarm and security systems. In their last year, they attend two electives while continuing on-site training.

 

Track 2: Residential

 The Residential Track is a 5-year program that gives students the opportunity to work for top electrical contractors in the Washington Metropolitan area and become a member of a first-rate organization. Students get hands-on experience in the field performing branch circuit wiring, light fixture, receptacle and panelboard installation, and blueprint reading. They also get related classroom instruction one night per week in the first two years. Graduates walk out with an earning potential of over $52,440/year plus $24,733 in health and retirement benefits.

 

Track 3: Telecommunications

The Telecommunications track is a 3-year program that kickstarts careers as a Teledata/IT networking technician. For the first two years, students attend class once every other week while working with electrical contractors in voice-data-video installations. In their last year, students take electives and continue on-the-job training. Graduates walk out with an earning potential of $57,100 annually, plus $22,973 in health and retirement benefits.

 

Start your career (or help a young person do so!)

The JATC program is an excellent option for young people seeking a lifelong career (with great pay) that can’t be outsourced, without the burden of student loans. The JATC runs its accredited program in its main state-of-the-art facility located in Lanham, MD. They also have a training facility in Manassas, VA and Roanoke, VA.

The apprenticeship is very competitive and applicants must have strong math and science skills, and pass a test and interview to be accepted.

Head here to learn more about JATC. Applications are accepted year-round.

 

 

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Meet Kyle McMillan: Local 26 Organizer and WBC Craftsmanship Awards Program judge

There are countless exceptionally skilled craftsmen in Washington, DC’s building industry—and they deserve to be honored. That’s why the Craftsmanship Awards was created.

Originally created in 1950 and reorganized in 1956 by the Washington Building Congress, the Craftsmanship Awards are an annual program that publicly recognizes the skillful work being done. Awards are made for a wide range of skills including elaborate and technical installation of sitework, metal fabrication, flooring and drywall, concrete, carpentry, mechanical, masonry, glazing, special construction and electrical.

At Electrical Alliance, we’re proud to have a role in the program. In fact, our very own Kyle McMillan, Local 26 Organizer, is one of approximately 10 judges for the electrical category of the WBC Craftsmanship Awards.

McMillan has served as a judge for three years now, so we asked him to give us an inside look into this celebration, how he became a judge, and what his career has looked like along the way.

 

From the field to an Organizer

McMillan never expected to end up working in a corporate office for Local 26. He started in the electrical trade in 2003 because he loved working with his hands, wanted a meaningful career, it offered great benefits, and he valued being a part of projects that had an important impact on his community.

But, after a little over a decade, a new opportunity came up. Washington, DC Local 26 wanted him to move to the corporate office and he was offered a position as an Organizer to help transition new and experienced workers into the organization.

“When they offered me an opportunity to work in the office, it was a little unexpected,” McMillan says. “I was having a good time in the field and enjoying my work. But then, at the office, I got to see the other side of things and how we can change people’s lives by opening up their eyes to opportunities they weren’t aware of before. And that was a good feeling.”

These days, McMillan helps organize for the union by bringing new workers into the trade, and recruit experienced tradesmen and tradeswomen from non-Union contractors.

“There’s power in numbers and there are so many talented people that the union can benefit,” McMillan says. “So, I help provide a bridge that connects those people to our union.”

 

Becoming a judge for the Craftsmanship Awards

In 2018, McMillan was asked to be one of the judges at the Craftsmanship Awards, which he considered an honor.

“As a field electrician, being a judge of something like this is an opportunity I never dreamed of having. I didn’t even realize awards for these types of projects were really a thing!” he says. “But I always love to have new experiences so when it came up, I jumped on it.”

Each year, McMillan is in charge of objectively scoring six to eight of the projects that have been nominated. Because of his background, he focuses on electrical installations. He considers a variety of metrics, including the difficulty of the installation or how hazardous the location is.

“There are some projects that are installed at 40-50 feet or even higher. It’s incredible,” Macmillan says. “Each time, I’m just in awe of the artistry and craftsmanship of how these projects were installed.”

Once McMillan and the other judges have scored their respective projects, the scores are sent to a head coordinator. Here, the scores are tallied so the winners can be determined.

 

Bringing together field and office workers

When the winners are picked, there’s an in-person ceremony to announce them and to celebrate. The ceremony also serves as an opportunity for people who work in the field and those who work corporate jobs in the office to gather, meet, and share their experiences.

“The ceremony is great because, often, field workers feel a separation from those of us in the office. I know I did when I worked in the field,” Macmillan says. “And that’s the thing—every one of us in the office come from working on job sites exactly like they are. So, it’s a great opportunity to meet face to face and congratulate them for a job well done. It’s such a good feeling to showcase the craftsmanship and artistry of what they do.”

 

Big thanks to the Craftsmanship Awards Program judges, coordinators, and nominees

At Electrical Alliance, we pride any opportunity that brings our community of workers together, recognizes the great work being done, and helps grow our connections. The Craftsmanship Awards Program is a fantastic way for us to do just that. Thank you to everyone involved!

The 2021 awards took place in August. For a full list of the 2021 Craftsmanship Award winners, head here. Stay tuned for announcements surrounding the 2022 awards.

Until then, McMillan hopes to be on the judge’s panel again next year.

 

About The Electrical Alliance

The Electrical Alliance is a cooperative effort between skilled craftsmen of the IBEW, Local 26 and electrical contractors of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of NECA.

Our top commitment is to set the standard for efficiency, productivity, and safety within the electrical industry. We also prioritize community involvement such as volunteer initiatives including food banks, coat drives, monetary contributions, and other events like the NECA Golf Classic.

Whether we’re helping companies find contractors, encouraging working electricians to learn more about membership with Local 26, or training individuals to start a career with the wages and benefits they deserve, we take pride in providing a quality union that benefits all.

 

Want to learn more about our training programs?

Head to our training page to see how you can start your career in electrical and telecommunications technologies.

NECA and IBEW attend Maryland Chamber of Commerce “Externship” Celebration

On September 30th, Members from Maryland NECA, DC NECA, Local 24 and Local 26 attended the 2021 Teacher Externship Celebration held by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. The Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Teacher Externship Program is a four-week summer program that bridges the gap between businesses and educators by pairing high school teachers with top Maryland businesses who provide hands-on experience in industries related to the subjects they teach. Maryland teachers then bring this knowledge back to the classroom, where they can empower their students with the essential information and skills they need to begin down a lucrative career path. Teacher externs receive a stipend from the Maryland Chamber Foundation for their work, and gain invaluable experiences and perspectives that they can share with their students—through field trips, enhanced lesson plans, and exciting classroom activities—when they return to the classroom in the fall.

In its third year, the Maryland Chamber Foundation Teacher Externship Program is staged to impact thousands of Maryland students in 2021 as they consider their future careers. The industry and technical knowledge teachers gain allow them to enhance their curriculum and educate their students on both the hard and soft skills required to enter the workforce and obtain a livable-wage career. Up from three participating teachers in 2020, the 25 teacher externs represent a 766% growth in the program in 2021.

Freestate Electric was also involved in this year’s class, hosting Dennis Poe, an electrical teacher at Croom Vocational High School in Prince George’s County.

For more information about the Teacher Externship Program, click here.


Pictured (left to right): Michael Harris, Joe Dabbs, Al Aus Jr., Will Yull, Mike McHale, Tom Clark, Greg Bayliff, Rhett Roe, JT Thomas and David Howell.

Check Presentation

NECA Golf Classic raises $90,000 to support Special Operations Forces veterans

Electrical Alliance was thrilled to participate in this year’s Washington DC NECA Annual Golf Classic fundraiser on August 30th.

The event raised $90,000 to support Special Operators Transition Foundation (SOTF), a non-profit organization committed to helping Special Operations Forces (SOF) veterans transition from the military into their next successful career.

In total, over 200 golfers participated in the event. This roaring success is thanks to the generous support from our NECA Contractors, our Labor partners, and all of the other industry partners who participated. View a complete list of sponsors here.

“The event was amazing! And being with some of our veterans throughout the day, filled our participants with a sense of pride and gratitude. We’re already looking forward to next year!” said JT Thomas, Executive Director of NECA’s Washington, DC Chapter.

 

“Whenever we get to partner with organizations like this, we’re all reminded of what matters most. So we’re excited to put the funds to use in helping Special Operations Forces veterans pursue their next career… and hopefully that career will be in our industry.”

What is the Special Operators Transition Foundation?

SOTF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. They help their fellows embark on their next career by providing coaching and connections to help veterans identify, prepare, and execute a personal marketing plan. They also provide unique interactive opportunities for C-Suite executives to meet and explore opportunities in small venues.

SOTF Fellows are senior Non-Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, and Officers from Green Beret, SEAL, Delta Force, 75th Ranger Regiment, Marine Corps Special Operations, and Air Force Special Operations units. In other words, they are the military’s pro athletes with special skills and advanced degrees, ready to find the right career.

Our hope at Electrical Alliance is to help support those who choose to pursue a career with the skilled craftsmen of the IBEW, Local 26, and electrical contractors of Washington, D.C.

 

 About The Electrical Alliance

The Electrical Alliance is a cooperative effort between skilled craftsmen of the IBEW, Local 26 and electrical contractors of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of NECA.

 

Our top commitment is to set the standard for efficiency, productivity, and safety within the electrical industry. We also prioritize community involvement such as volunteer initiatives including food banks, coat drives, monetary contributions, and other events like the NECA Golf Classic.

 

Whether we’re helping companies find contractors, encouraging working electricians to learn more about membership with Local 26, or training individuals to start a career with the wages and benefits they deserve, we take pride in providing a quality union that benefits all.

 

Want to learn more about our training programs?

Head to our training page to see how you can start your career in electrical and telecommunications technologies.