A career conductor
Ever think about becoming an electrician? U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says job prospects are excellent, predicting 8% growth through 2029. That’s faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations. The average annual salary in Nevada is about $70,000. Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications equipment, and lighting, among other things. The ability to communicate, focus for long periods of time, follow instructions, and problem solving are just some of the pertinent skills necessary. A good trade school can cost as much as $20,000 per year, but in the great state of Nevada, there’s another option, and they’re a friend of ours. The Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for Southern Nevada (Electrical JATC) has been training skilled apprentice electricians since 1947.
Hit the ground running
The goal of the Electrical JATC is to provide students a well-rounded electrical education so they can hit the ground running when they graduate. Training Director Madison Burnett says, “Over a 5-year period, our apprentices get 900 hours in classroom instruction, and more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.” The Electrical JATC is associated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #357 and the Southern Nevada Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. Apprentices get paid, get raises, retirement plans, and medical coverage for themselves and their families.
About three years ago, Director Burnett was appointed to a gubernatorial work force development board. It was there he began to seek a solution to a vexing problem; apprentices were struggling with money. It wasn’t because they didn’t have money, it was precisely the opposite. Young workers, unaccustomed to significant paychecks, weren’t managing finances well and getting themselves into trouble.
“When you don’t know how to manage money it tends to burn a hole in your pocket,” Director Burnett explains. Some would eventually resort to payday loans, then get another payday loan to pay off the previous one – a vicious circle. Uncapped payday loan rates in Nevada are among the highest in the country at more than 650% annually.
Madison sought out financial institutions who’d agree to educate apprentices in the program, but they turned out to be more interested in selling products than providing advice. Enter SCE Credit Union and Emily Stevens, Director of Community Engagement.
The SCE Credit Union connection
Financial literacy is a cause SCE Credit Union has long embraced. “We explained to Emily what we were looking for and she was perfect,” says Burnett. For the first time in many of their lives, electrician apprentices were taught how to budget, how to save and how to invest.
“Before the pandemic, we’d have more than a hundred apprentices in an auditorium listening to Emily expound on the dangers of revolving debt, and the virtues of compound interest,” Burnett says, adding, “When she’s finished, they’re crowding around her with more questions.” The pandemic forced sessions onto the Google Classroom platform, but solid results continued.
SCE Credit Union has stepped in with loans, and according to Burnett, a great many apprentices have opened accounts. “SCE Credit Union has been a great resource. They’ve come to the rescue for some and educated everyone.”