Apprentices can benefit from energy infrastructure projects

NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center Executive Director Rod Belisle (left) shows one of the hands-on classrooms during a tour of the NECA/IBEW Electrical Training Center in Northeast Portland. To the right, Gary Young, IBEW Local 48 business manager, looks on.

Energy infrastructure projects are not only an important source of family wage jobs for construction workers, they provide real-world projects that help train apprentices and sharpen the skills of journeymen and women.

That’s what lawmakers, port commissioners, and business and union leaders heard during a recent tour of the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in Northeast Portland. The center, considered one of the nation’s best apprenticeship training facilities, is responsible for training thousands of electrical workers for projects in the Portland metropolitan area, and in Southwest Washington.

The tour was arranged by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition of business, labor, agriculture, and trade representatives that support energy infrastructure projects. The focus was the need for more skilled labor on both sides of the Columbia River, and how energy infrastructure projects can help meet that need.

Among those taking the tour were Brian Wolf, president of the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners; Mike Bomar, executive director of the Columbia River Economic Development Council; Matthew Hepner, executive director of Certified Electrical Workers of Washington; Washington state Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19th); executives from Vancouver Energy, and construction union leaders from Oregon and Washington.

Energy infrastructure projects, like the Vancouver Energy terminal being proposed at the Port of Vancouver, would provide significant training opportunities and apprenticeships for electrical workers and other skilled tradesmen and women, said Jared Larrabee of Vancouver Energy.

“The IBEW Training Center is a world-class facility for electricians of all levels of experience. But they need real-world experiences to fine-tune their skills,” said Gary Young, business manager of IBEW Local 48 and a Port of Portland commissioner. “We don’t expect other professionals to learn everything in the classroom. We want new doctors to actually see patients and develop their clinical skills. The same can be said for electricians and other people in the trades. We need them to work on real projects, and the reality is, major energy infrastructure projects like Vancouver Energy provide excellent training opportunities.”

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