Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Students Amped Up for Electrical Apprentice Program

Shane Murphy of TRIO Electric talks about a training aid in the TRIO’s classroom.

Izel Garcia Cano likes learning how things work, so she was intrigued when she heard about a new electrical apprentice program in Spring Branch ISD.

One information session later, she was hooked.

“I want to take every opportunity I can to see what I want to do,” said Izel. “I want to take risks. I like learning new things.”

The rising junior at Spring Woods High School will start an electrical apprentice program this fall, a partnership between SBISD, Houston Community College and TRIO Electric, a local electrical services company.

Current TRIO apprentices are already high school graduates who work full-time for TRIO and take a weekly class to satisfy requirements to take the journeyman’s exam after four years on the job.

The apprentice program in SBISD will involve both classroom and lab practicum work, courses that will be taken during students’ junior and senior years. Apprentices will graduate with a high school diploma, college credit from HCC and a Level 1 electrician’s certificate.

Students will intern at TRIO in the summer between their junior and senior years, while earning $13 an hour.

After graduating from high school, the cohort will work as apprentices at TRIO and take the weekly classes required as they study to become eligible to take the journeyman’s exam after two years.

They could be journeymen electricians by the time they’re 20 years old, said Laurie Bricker, an education consultant brought in to help grow the program.

And TRIO Electric will have a pool of certified electricians, trained in the TRIO way. That’s important to TRIO, said Shane Murphy of TRIO, a master electrician who is helping develop the curriculum and who is himself an instructor..

“TRIO has a different way, a different culture,” Murphy said. “We wanted to train (students) in our way.”

TRIO has partnered in a similar program with KIPP schools for four years, with the first cohort ready to take the exam. Only four students remain in that first cohort but those four are “top notch,” said Murphy, and one already has a journeyman’s license.

The need for qualified, licensed electricians is acute, Murphy said, with the Baby Boomers – those roughly 49-64 years old – reaching retirement age. UpSkill Houston, a regional workforce initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership, estimates that over the next decade 185,000 craft or trade workers will needed, with more than 7,000 new construction jobs per year in Houston.

These so-called “middle skills” – jobs that require some training beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree – are in demand and offer a good living, said Bricker.

“Someone who trains for a trade should not be looked down upon,” said Bricker. “You can make a good living – six figures in some cases – and there’s a real need for these skills.”

Guthrie Center principal Joe Kolenda agrees.

“Trades aren’t just for weaker students,” he said, “They involve so much more (training and study).”

Kolenda said that the TRIO apprenticeship program absolutely fills a need, and offers a tangible career path for students.

“It’s cool … because now there’s an interest (in trade programs),” he said. “Parents can see this as a career … they can say ‘this is a good paying job for my kid’.”

Spring Woods High School counselor Jose Garcia has been an advocate for the program and likes the connection to industry.

“(The program) provides real-world experience that’s relevant to the needs of society, and that’s what these kids are looking for,” said Garcia. “It’s no longer just theory – it’s gaining a skill that they can use now and for the rest of their life.”

He said that the apprenticeship program offers a “new way” of getting students interested in their futures in a comprehensive fashion, combining classroom training with practical training with industry professionals.

“I wish we had more like it,” Garcia said.

So does Bricker, and so does Kolenda. Both said that grant money is available to help pay for the program and perhaps others like it. Bricker said that the goal is to make the TRIO apprenticeship program “cost neutral,” and she looks forward to expanding into other trades.

“This is a pilot,” said Kolenda. “We’ll see how this works then maybe add in other trades like HVAC, plumbing and welding.”

by Rusty Graham


Post a Comment

Do you have feedback? Tell us.