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SLCC to train electricians

Opportunities are exploding in communications

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The exploding possibilities of telecommunications have changed the meaning of the job that used to be covered by "electrician." And they have greatly increased the training demands for those who want to go into the field.

An initiative announced Friday at Salt Lake Community College will offer "tailor-made" apprenticeship training for budding electricians who want to meet the new demands of the field. At a luncheon meeting, college and industry representatives, many of them from out of state, heard the details of the Salt Lake program.

The project is a partnership between the college and the electrical industry, assuring that those who complete the program will be skilled in the new technologies the job now incorporates. It is the kind of collaboration between education and business that is being promoted by applied technology education proponents in the state.

"Our old definition of wiring and cables is obsolete. Our workers have to know what's going through the wires," said Kevin Seeley of Arco Electric, one of a number of companies that have worked with SLCC to design the program. He is chairman for an education steering committee for local independent electrical companies.

Many local companies had been sending workers to training sites throughout the country to learn piecemeal the skills that now will be available comprehensively on the Redwood Road campus, he said. The apprenticeship includes on-the-job practical training with two days per week of classroom study. Many companies pay expenses for their trainees as they work toward journeyman status.

The stereotypical electrician — a workman skilled in his field but often not good at either written or oral communication — is expected to disappear as general education courses are added to the mix. "They have to be able to communicate on multiple levels," said Seeley. Students may opt not to take the 13 general education hours incorporated into the SLCC associate degree program and bypass the degree, but an increasing number are choosing to get the additional training.

Even so mundane a task as filling out a daily log on a job site requires communications skills, Seeley noted.

Those who complete the three-year apprenticeship at SLCC will earn an associate degree in applied science, with the credit transferable if they choose to continue their education. Courses are designed to lead to "competencies" in several areas, so a student also would have the option of changing course without losing ground, said Dick Darnell, who will direct the SLCC program.

SLCC has collaborated with a national industry group, Independent Electrical Contractors Inc., to develop the industry-specific program. The Salt Lake apprenticeship project will be "the flagship as the beta site," said Linda Kofford, executive director of the Salt Lake IEC chapter. The national organization hopes to have about a dozen such programs around the country to provide opportunities for local students.

The expanded training was made an official goal of the contractors group during a national convention in the fall of 2000.

A number of companies have contributed equipment or provided deep discounts to get the program going, said Darnell.

E-MAIL: tvanleer@desnews.com