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Contractors fear new law could short-circuit DC electrician workforce |  Washington

(The Center Square) – Two electrical contractors in Bellingham believe that a recently enacted law aimed at bolstering the workforce of electricians in Washington state could actually discourage people from entering the trade and have a negative impact on technical and community colleges.

Senate Bill 5320, passed this session by the Legislative Assembly and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, clarifies state law regarding certification requirements for workers seeking to become course-level electricians. The law came into effect on July 1.

Chris Scherer, master electrician of North Wave Electric LLC, and Tim Rockwell, owner of Rockwell Electric Inc., are skeptical that the law will carry out its good intentions.

Indeed, according to the two small business owners, any intern wishing to join an apprenticeship program basically has two options: join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Unions or join a non-union apprenticeship program.

One of the leading non-union apprenticeship programs is available through the Washington Construction Industry Training Councilwhich has six locations across the state: Bellevue, Marysville, Pasco, Puyallup, Spokane and Vancouver

Candidates wishing to participate in the training council’s apprenticeship program must be interviewed before being placed on a waiting list. The program can only recruit trainees wishing to become apprentices.

Scherer said last I heard the waiting list to join the apprenticeship program was months long, with hundreds of people waiting to join.

“The senator. Saldaña really believes it’s going to increase the opportunities, but it minimizes the opportunities,” Scherer said in Center Square during a phone call, referring to the main sponsor of SB 5320. “You could always have joined an apprenticeship, but we could We have – as freelancers – also hired, but now we cannot.

Every trainee in an apprenticeship program must attend a four-hour in-person class twice a week for four years, according to Scherer, who said he suspects people interested in joining and living several hours away of the program would probably succeed. .

The new law also hits technical and community colleges that are struggling to start their own apprenticeship programs, the two electricians say.

Scherer, who serves on the Bellingham Technical College advisory board, said the school’s inability to start its own program is due to lack of public funding and the complications of starting a program in general.

“Our schools are going to be strained because we are offering electrical programs that are not apprenticeships,” he said.

The pair say students won’t see any credit transferred to the apprenticeship program, which means technical and community colleges offering electrician programs will become less popular.

Rockwell said a technical college student would receive 2,000 lab and classroom hours, plus a few hours of field training. When a student is on an apprenticeship, he pointed out, the qualification is 720 hours over four years.

“You would think that if you graduated from a technical college and just spent five terms, or two years in their program, you would be able to articulate lab and classroom time,” he said. he declares. “Absolutely not.”

Rockwell added that there have been several instances where it has had to turn away potential workers due to the effects of SB 5320, including an applicant with over 2,000 lab and classroom hours who was unable to start work. work with local electrical contractors. Before July 1, that candidate would have been hired, Rockwell said.