Energy Infrastructure Projects Key to Solving Skilled Labor Shortage

IBEW Training Facility Tour highlights need for practical training, apprenticeship opportunities

OLYMPIA — Energy infrastructure projects are not only an important source of family wage jobs for IBEW members, providing real-world projects to sharpen worker skills.

That’s what lawmakers, port commissioners and business representatives heard when they toured the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in Portland Friday. The center, considered one of the country’s best apprenticeship training facilities, is responsible for training most of the electrical workers for projects on both sides of the Columbia River.

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

“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, IBEW 48 business manager. “In addition to training new apprentices, the facility allows their journeymen to update their skills and keep pace with evolving technology. We can also tailor training to a specific project with unique industry needs.

“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,” he added.

“Without them, we’re going to be hard pressed to train enough people to fill the anticipated labor shortage, and that’s going to have long-term implications for our economy.”

Matthew Hepner, executive director of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington, said he’s already having trouble filling jobs in Washington state.

“There’s just not enough trained workers, and we need projects like Vancouver Energy to help fill that backlog of skilled workers,” he said. “More than that, we need to think long-term about where we’re going to find the men and women trained to build our schools and hospitals and other major projects. And the best training ground is a large-scale energy infrastructure project like Vancouver Energy.”



NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center instructor Rod Belisle shows guests one of the training classrooms. At right, Gary Young, IBEW Local 48 Business Manager, looks on.

CREDC Executive Director Mike Bomar asks a question during Friday’s NECA-IBEW Training Center tour.

Port of Vancouver Commission President Brian Wolf (right) talks with Vancouver Energy’s Jared Larrabee.