Union journeymen earn similar wages and benefits as college grads

A recent study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor found that those who complete union apprenticeship programs in the construction industry achieve nearly equal wages and benefits, on average, as other workers with four-year college degrees.

Tommy Maloney, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 96 Business Manager, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how a union apprenticeship can be a ticket to the middle class.

He also discussed two solar farms being built in Massachusetts and what the federal infrastructure bill means for jobs in the electrical industry.

A union apprenticeship is a ticket to the middle class

The EPI study provides further evidence that a union apprenticeship can be a path to a good paying career without accruing the financial debt of a four-year college degree, Maloney said. People are increasingly realizing going into the trades is a great opportunity for a middle class lifestyle.

The beauty of an apprenticeship program is participants earn while they learn without debt, he said.

But landing an apprenticeship can be challenging, Maloney acknowledged. They don’t take just anybody. The credentials of accepted apprentices are high.

IBEW’s Code of Excellence focuses on safety and performance

Maloney also discussed the IBEW’s Code of Excellence training, designed to ensure high workplace standards for both employees and contractors. Employees have the obligation to show up to work on time and be prepared. Contractors are obligated to provide a safe work environment with all the required safety equipment available for the employees.

Some jobs require Code of Excellence certification, which mandates a day of training that can take place on the job. Roughly 85 percent of the 400 members of the IBEW Local 96 have received the training.

Solar plants create a high demand for union jobs

Maloney also discussed two solar power plants being built in Massachusetts. They will generate clean power and produce no emissions. The construction creates a high demand for labor, roughly 50 to 60 jobs, which the IBEW can easily meet, Maloney said. While it would be difficult for a standard contractor to meet those numbers, a union contractor has ample access to reliable workers.

Infrastructure bills will fuel demand for skilled electrical workers

Maloney also discussed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which he is confident Congress will soon pass. The bills include money for charging stations, which will create jobs for electrical workers. The power grid must be overhauled in order to accommodate the vast array of electric vehicles called for in the bills.


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