Four newly registered electricians were lauded by their employer, course instructors and industry peers at a private graduation ceremony in Greenville, S.C., on Friday, September 6, 2019. The celebration recognized the group’s successful completion of a rigorous four-year, electrical apprenticeship program registered with the S.C. Department of Labor.
The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program is a partnership among six regional electrical contractors – CarolinaPower, Eldeco, Hayes & Lunsford, HR Allen, Walker & Whiteside, and Watson Electrical. The apprenticeship program is administered by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of the Carolinas (ABC Carolinas) with classes held at Greenville Technical College.
All four Class of 2019 graduates – Stuart, Andrew, Jake and Noah – are employed by Hayes & Lunsford Electric, Inc.
“We are excited for these graduates who put in their time and dedicated themselves to our program. This isn’t the end of their journey; the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program gives them the foundation to seek out what direction they want to go in the electrical business after this very important milestone. These apprentices are the future of our company – and the future of the industry,” said Hayes & Lunsford’s Mike Presley, vice president.
The Class of 2019’s graduation ceremony, held at Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, celebrated the partnership among the participating contractors and their education partners. Although the six electrical contractors compete for work, they are united when it comes to investing in the next generation of electricians.
According to CarolinaPower President Chris Moore, who chairs the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship committee, the program is showing steady growth and continues to exceed expectations. “We currently have 35 students in various stages of the curriculum – the biggest total enrollment to date. Of the 35 individuals enrolled, 18 are just starting the entry-level Core class,” said Moore. “We are especially proud of the fact that 2019 marks our first year with a female apprentice.”
The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program has graduated 20 electricians since its inception in 2008. There were only three electrical contractors involved in the early years of the program – CarolinaPower, Hayes & Lunsford, and Walker & Whiteside. As the program gained momentum in recent years, Watson Electrical, Eldeco and HR Allen came on board.
“Whereas our focus for 2019 was growth, our focus will now be on retention. With our record enrollment, our objective is to maintain a steady graduation rate of 15+ students per year,” said Moore.
When asked how the team of six contractors plans to accomplish this, Moore said “It’s going to be relationship-driven. We need to be intentional about staying engaged with the students as they work for our companies full-time during the day and attend classes after-hours. For example, we need to make sure their work schedule is supportive of their classroom schedule. By continuing to provide top-notch instructors, and by using technology (online) to help with travel construction schedules, we should be able to keep the majority of students in the program all four years.”
Moore noted that a big part of today’s electrical construction is technology – an advantage for attracting the younger generation. “Many young people and their parents find the program’s combination of classroom, laboratory, and live work experiences to be extremely appealing – once they know it exists,” he said.
Looking ahead to 2020, Moore and his counterparts will continue to focus on raising awareness of this “best-kept-secret career option” and its nearly limitless opportunities for personal growth.
Group Photo: Class of 2019 graduates pictured with (left to right) Sara Breeggemann, director of workforce development, ABC Carolinas; Mike Presley, vice president, Hayes & Lunsford; and Tony Veramo, workforce development manager, CarolinaPower.
More about the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program
Registered apprenticeships are employer-sponsored training programs that produce highly skilled workers – a win-win for the employer and apprentice employees. According to the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship’s founders and sponsors, graduates of the program are well prepared for permanent employment or have a solid foundation to pursue further education. ABC Carolinas, a strong proponent of construction industry apprenticeships, often refers to this and other electrical apprenticeships in the region as “the other four-year degree.”
Apprentices work full-time during the day, attending classes one evening per week at Greenville Tech. The comprehensive program teaches the skills for both construction and maintenance electricians. The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program utilizes curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Participants begin with NCCER Core Curriculum – Introductory Craft Skills, followed by NCCER Electrical Level I to IV classes. Successful completers receive a certificate from Greenville Tech, as well as a nationally recognized credential from NCCER, and a U.S. Department of Labor Apprentice Diploma.