NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry

What Makes a Journeyman a Journeyman?

Posted on Aug 21, 2007 by John M Grau

I want to share another comment in response to my posting on the recent National Training Institute in Knoxville. Mike Kanetzky of ELK Electric in Austin, Texas, and I have had an ongoing dialogue for the past few months regarding apprentice training and the NJATC. His comments aren’t directly about the NTI, but they do raise some important issues that others may want to comment on.

John, the training of the trainers can be the best in the world, yet if the curriculum of the NJATC does not fit the contractor's needs; it will not make any difference.

We jointly with Labor here at local 520 put together what we thought a journeyman wireman should know. From this list of skills we developed out testing boards which we use to qualify the Intermediate Journeyman (sub-journeyman) to organize them into our union. It is also an alternative plan to the NJATC to provide sub-journeyman training to advance and learn the skills required to become a journeyman wireman.

We took our local NJATC class after they finished their 3rd year and tested them on our IJ Testing Boards and out of the 38 apprentices 4 passed the skills boards for what a third year person should know. Results!

It seems obvious to me in reviewing the curriculum and speaking to recent graduates that the NJATC has lost sight of their objective of teaching apprentices how to become productive employees for contractors.

It is my opinion that the NJATC has exterior influences separate from meeting the contractor’s needs that has deteriorated the curriculum.

We need flexibility in our training for each local.

- Mike Kanetzky

Establishing national training standards while simultaneously allowing local flexibility in training is a delicate balance. Some say the NJATC curriculum overtrains journeymen. “We’re producing rocket scientists instead of productive workers,” is one comment I’ve heard. Others have remarked that the journeymen skills required in one area are drastically different from skills needed in another area. So local programs should set their own standard for what constitutes a journeyman wireman. 

Meanwhile, other contractors want a firm national standard. When journeymen travel from one area to another, the contractor wants to know that he can expect a certain level of training and skills when he calls for a journeyman from the local referral hall.  Also, the CW/CE program creates additional levels of skills and needs for evaluation before someone is certified as a journeyman electrician.

In my opinion, a local program needs flexibility, but I also believe that the current NJATC curriculum can be adapted to enable a third-year apprentice to pass a third-year CW/CE practical skills exam. In the end, we still want to know that a journeyman electrician from Texas can perform the work required of a journeyman electrician in Minneapolis, and vice versa. That’s one reason major customers are pushing for certification of craftsmen working on their projects.

Let’s hear from others on this issue. Where do you think the balance lies? Is it important to have a national standard and core training curriculum for apprentices, or should each local union area determine their own standard and have greater flexibility in developing their training curriculum? Use the Feedback link below to send me your thoughts.

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NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.


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