On Long Island, interest in union electrical trades is surging, increasingly with high schoolers interested in union training.

For the incoming class of apprentices, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 25’s five-year program received 884 applications. After the union interviews the nearly 500 applicants that passed the aptitude test, it will admit only 45 to 50 of them into its next class — an acceptance rate that’s approaching some of the most selective colleges in America.

“There is big demand,” said Christopher Kelly, IBEW Local 25’s director of training.

The union’s training facility located in Hauppauge, serves signatory contractors in both Nassau and Suffolk County. Over the past decade, Local 25’s profile has grown as it’s taken on monumental projects like the new UBS Islanders Arena in Belmont Park, the Nassau Coliseum and the Long Island Solar Farm at Brookhaven. The union’s ascendance is coming at a moment when the interest for the skilled trades appears to be increasing locally.

Kelly attributes a big reason for the union’s success in attracting candidates to its strong connection with technical programs in local high schools. While school system’s in many places across the country have trended toward emphasizing college prep as the road to success, on Long Island, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) programs’s vocational training has taken root and expanded in recent years.

Kelly said that the number of BOCES classrooms in many local schools has doubled or tripled — and each of those electrical classes usually receives a visit from the union to discuss its apprenticeship program.

“Having people come directly out of high school now coming in is just a big indication of people realizing that the trades, union trades in particular, can provide opportunities for them to remain on Long Island, make a decent wage, have benefits and be part of something bigger,” Kelly said.

That boon in union recruitment is coming at a critical time for the union electrical sector, with more big retail and renewable energy projects coming down the pike. As part of their training, apprentices will find themselves on a diverse range of projects from hospital and school construction sites to wind and solar storage projects. With funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, energy contractors have begun to flock to Long Island to stake out large offshore wind farm projects in the process of building out a new energy grid.

Local 25’s apprenticeship program intentionally moves its apprentices from project to project for a variety of reasons. One is simply to learn different skills and processes and round out each student’s expertise. As students progress through on-site experiences, they’re also learning the fundamentals of direct current and alternating current theory in the classroom.

The other use of alternating work sites is more social. “The apprenticeship is great because you’re learning a trade, but you also need to learn to get along with people,” said Kelly.

A major part of that training entails adapting to different on-site personalities. At the end of the day, Kelly said, the goal is to get the job done, be productive and make the customer happy to keep up a consistent stream of projects from recurring clients. That’s what makes the apprenticeship such an integral part of working in the unionized electrical industry.

“When you go to college and you graduate, you have to create a resume and a cover letter along with it to get a job. Your apprenticeship is your resume and cover letter. It’s everything about who you are and how you are going to perform in the industry,” Kelly said.

An IBEW Local 25 training classroom.
Photos courtesy of Christopher Kelly
IBEW Local 25 apprentices attend class.
Photos courtesy of Christopher Kelly


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