Construction is a complicated business. From planning and development through the final touches on a new facility, numerous factors play roles in ensuring a job finishes safely, on time and on budget. When the job is finished, the customer expects all of the electrical and mechanical systems to be installed properly and work as designed.

Customers, such as school boards, city governments or private business owners, are paying for architects, engineers, construction managers and quality materials to construct their buildings. Many times, conscientious customers will consider only the most qualified and reputable providers to perform their construction services. This is a responsible and respectable position to take, especially when dealing with taxpayers’ money that more often than not runs into the millions.

However, sometimes lost in the shuffle is a customer’s confidence in the quality, skill and training of the available workforce. From making an incorrect assumption that all construction workers are trained the same (if at all) to never having been informed about the importance of finding highly skilled workers, customers must be educated about the vast differences among the labor pool of construction workers.

When a customer demands a job be completed right the first time and wants to avoid future repairs and “call-backs,” finding the best workers with proven records of accomplishment is critical.

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As in any profession, the level of training and education a construction worker receives varies immensely. Some students may pay thousands of dollars in tuition to trade schools, leaving hands-on skills training and job opportunities in question, while others hired off the street by contractors learn only as much as the owner of a company invests into training and education. With limited training and work opportunities for many workers, customers should realize employee turnover and an indifferent commitment to the chosen trade affects productivity and efficiency.

In the unionized electrical construction industry, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has over 100 years of experience in training electrical workers. By mandating classroom training in theory, mathematics, electrical code, OSHA safety and on-the-job training under the guidance of a seasoned journeyman, workers in training (apprentices) receive a thorough and complete understanding of their profession. Trained to use their heads and their hands, union electrical workers know how to perform physical labor skillfully and understand the reasons and theory behind their actions.

Administered jointly between IBEW Local 725 and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) trains its apprentices to ensure only the best and the brightest electricians graduate from the program. In addition, training goes beyond electrical theory as all apprentices receive an education through Ivy Tech that leads to an Associate’s degree.

The electrical workers’ apprenticeship training mandates five years of on-the-job training and classroom work. Before reaching the status of a journeyman, electrical workers must complete over 800 hours of schooling, including homework, quizzes and tests, and 8,000 hours of verifiable, on-the-job training.

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As all union apprenticeship programs are certified and registered with the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, customers are assured that minimum standards are being met, and communities will have available a highly skilled pool of local construction workers to perform on any type of job in the area.

After apprentices, who “earn while they learn,” achieve the status of journeyman, they have made a long-term commitment to their trade and now have a career instead of a job. Apprentices do not pay for the training, and there is no public money utilized in the core education. Funding comes from contributions from NECA and IBEW members who know their futures depend on a new generation of highly skilled electricians.

Workers who are trained locally and work locally will give back to their communities by paying taxes; building safe, quality projects; and donating their personal time and labor to charitable causes such as the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

Remember, if you want the best value, the safest installations, and the most professional workers, the unionized construction industry is the place to look. Others may claim to be better or “just as good,” but with over a hundred years of experience under their belts, it’s hard to argue with unions’ proven records.

For your next job, contact your local union or union contractor. You will not be disappointed.

Tom Szymanski can be reached at .