Group seeks welfare recipients as trainees Trade association wants to teach electrician apprentices in Odenton

January 29, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The nation will need 150,000 more electricians by the turn of the century, and welfare recipients need jobs.

That makes for a perfect combination of supply and demand, according to Independent Electrical Contractors, a national trade association with a chapter in Odenton.

I.E.C. Chesapeake is opening a training building in Odenton and wants to fill it with area welfare recipients willing to become electrician apprentices.

"Each week in the Sunday employment section, there's about 10 to 20 companies that are hiring electricians," said Grant Shmelzer, executive director of I.E.C. Chesapeake. "We're trying to promote the trade as much as possible and create an interest in it."

The organization can train 80 people a year in a four-month pre-apprenticeship program.

And organization officials will help participants find jobs with member contractors so that they can enter four-year apprenticeships.

The Anne Arundel County Job Center and agencies in other counties and in Baltimore that are helping welfare recipients find jobs are examining the program, but none has signed on yet.

"What you're doing is exactly what we need," County Executive John G. Gary said at a ceremony yesterday to open the training center, at 1424 Odenton Road. "We will do what we can to help you in every way we can."

Gary said he might consider giving I.E.C. a grant to help pay for training, in addition to steering welfare applicants to the center.

Four months of training and four years in an apprenticeship will cost about $5,000 per person, Shmelzer said.

Twenty-one welfare recipients are in a similar training program at the I.E.C. national office in Alexandria, Va.

"It seems like they have a great program so far, but I really have to wait and see," said Jennifer Doiron, job development specialist at the Job Center in Anne Arundel's Department of Social Services.

Doiron said a link between the county and the trade association would mark the first time the Job Center has worked with private industry to send people to a formal job-training program.

Peter Bower, owner of Satellite Electric Inc. in Beltsville, helped build the training center and said he would be willing to hire graduates.

"People who have been on welfare or unemployment benefits may find themselves in one of these downtrodden states," he said. "If we can show them how to get out of the box, they can become valued employees in our field."

Trainees must have their own transportation, Shmelzer said, because as electricians they are likely to be required to travel to job sites.

They won't be paid during the four months of training, but once hired by a contractor and put into the four-year apprenticeship, they will begin earning an average of $7.66 an hour, half the average pay for a journeyman electrician, Shmelzer said.

As would-be electricians progress through the apprenticeship, which requires 2,000 hours a year of on-the-job training and 144 hours a year in the classroom, their hourly wages increase.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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