Electrical work is a specialized field, and learning the skills necessary to master the craft can be challenging. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Electrical Industry Training Center outside Detroit is an example of a union-led training program that is beneficial for unions and their members.
IBEW’s National Joint Apprentice Training Committee Center provides training for appretices and journeymen electricians in southeastern Michigan. According to the NJATC website, the center has trained over 350,000 apprentices and journeymen. NJATC also claims this was done without a cost to taxpayers.
The apprenticeship programs in southeast Michigan vary from three to five years. Instead of traditional schooling where students pay tuition, NJATC’s “Earn While you Learn” experience allow students to get paid on the job while being trained.
Unions are already training thousands of workers. The AFL-CIO claims that “the labor movement trains more than 450,000 workers” annually. But unions should make job and skills training an even larger part of their mission and service to members. They have a real opportunity to provide direct value to both employers and employees by doing so.
Just as with licensing, unions should not be given a monopoly on training and certifying workers in a specific field. Neither should the government subsidize this training. Unions can and should play a part in training workers, so long as laws do not provide them special favors over other organizations that provide training.