The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nationwide IBEW training program seeks new home, finds it at U-M

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

ANN ARBOR - Washtenaw County is proving to be a nationwide magnet for building trades training.

For the last 19 years, nearly 2,000 instructors for the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters have descended on Washtenaw Community College in August for the week-long annual Instructor Training Program.

Now, the sparkies are coming. Last month The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Industry (NJATC) announced that their annual week-long National Training Institute (NTI) program is moving to the University of Michigan's main campus beginning in 2009. The train-the-trainer conference is moving from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, bringing in union instructors from around the U.S. and Canada.

"This just solidifies the relationship we have with the University of Michigan and the community," said Ann Arbor IBEW Local 252 Business Manager Greg Stephens. "I encouraged the move, and I think it's directly attributable to the fact that union electricians are doing about one-and-a-half million man-hours of work per year here in Ann Arbor, and union electricians are just about being shut out in Knoxville."

The NJATC expects total participation in the 2009 National Training Institute to be well in excess of 2,000 industry representatives. The U-M will host the NTI for the first time July 31 - Aug. 7, 2009.

Stephens said this is particularly good news because unions are helping to stimulate the area's economy. It is estimated that this will annually produce $4.5 million to $5 million in new revenue for the economy of the Ann Arbor area. "The community has really embraced the United Association," he said. "We're hoping with this training program coming to town, the local restaurants and businesses will see we're helping them, and those who aren't using union construction will take another look at us."

The National Training Institute, led by Executive Director Michael Callanan, has grown into the most comprehensive training program in the electrical construction industry. Serving all sectors of the electrical construction market, NTI offers hands-on technical training, advanced educational theories and practices for the classroom, and cutting-edge workshops and seminars for apprenticeship committee members and National Electrical Contractor Association contractors.

"The University of Michigan is pleased to host such an important training program and provide the setting for ensuring electrical workers and contractors have the most relevant skills and knowledge for today's world," said University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman. "A conference of this magnitude is also an important catalyst for our economy, and we look forward to welcoming so many visitors from around the country."

The NJATC had been in discussions about relocating with U-M Marketing and Conference Services and the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for the last year. The electricians will meet in several U-M buildings.

A U-M spokesman told the Ann Arbor news that the NJATC group "is far more significant in size than most of the other conferences that come to campus."

The National Training Institute was jointly established in 1990 by the NJATC and the University of Tennessee. The University of Michigan employs IBEW members full-time in its facilities and operations departments. Additionally, the university retains the services of NECA contractors employing IBEW members to complete all of its electrical construction projects.

"We are so excited to welcome the NJATC to the Ann Arbor community," said Mary Kerr, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This announcement was the result of phenomenal collaboration between the University of Michigan and the CVB, and I'm very pleased that we're continuing to seize opportunities of this magnitude that drive direct economic impact to the area. "We're ready to roll out the red carpet for them next August."