by Paul Ciampoli, APPA News Director
David Hraha, Director of Member Services at the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, on Sept. 8 attended an event at the White House as part of IAMU's participation in a Department of Labor campaign to expand apprenticeships across the country. The following day, he appeared at an apprenticeship-related event on Capitol Hill.
IAMU has been asked by the Department of Labor to join the federal agency's ApprenticeshipUSA initiative, which "will engage businesses across all industries to discuss the value of apprenticeships and to encourage greater adoption of the workforce strategy," as IAMU notes on its website. IAMU is participating through its electric line mechanic apprenticeship program.
Hraha participated in a summit held at the White House on Sept. 8 that was attended by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. Vice-President Joe Biden also spoke at the summit.
One of the purposes of the initiative is for officials such as Hraha to assist in the development of best practices and go back to their home states and help local businesses and utilities understand apprenticeship programs and let them know that they do not have to start from scratch if they do not have an apprenticeship program.
IAMU was one of only three entities in Iowa to be chosen as ApprenticeshipUSA Leaders. Hraha said that the municipal utility group is a third-party provider of the electric line mechanic apprenticeship program. "It's just an avenue for our municipal utilities to access an apprenticeship program, other than going on their own," he told Public Power Daily. At the same time, IAMU has a mutual aid program, so the two programs go hand-in-hand in that the programs offer similar training, Hraha noted.
When asked about the benefits that will flow to IAMU through its participation in the federal program, Hraha said, "For us, I'm hoping to pull other practices from others to use in IAMU's existing program, but also to share IAMU's experience with others that might want to start a program".
IAMU notes on its website that other benefits from being an ApprenticeshipUSA Leader include "receiving national recognition as a leader in addressing the national and industry challenges of developing a skilled workforce," along with "shaping the direction of apprenticeship expansion in our industry and local area."
Perez wrote about the government's apprenticeship efforts in a blog posted on the Department of Labor's website Sept. 9.
Hraha on Sept. 9 traveled to Capitol Hill where he attended an event tied to continued support for the expansion of registered apprenticeship in the U.S. Several lawmakers spoke about legislation that would provide more money for apprenticeship programs. Representative Bobby Scott, D-Va. and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., along with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., spoke at the event.
Hraha said that what he heard both days while he was in Washington, DC, is that both sides of the political aisle agree that apprenticeship programs need to be funded.
IAMU represents more than 540 municipal electric, gas, water, stormwater and broadband utilities statewide, and maintains a marketing relationship with a large number of associate member businesses.
The American Public Power Association notes on its website that apprenticeship programs offer high school graduates interested in skilled-trade positions an opportunity to develop the skills necessary to pursue a career with the electric utility.
These programs combine classroom coursework with on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced employees. Many utilities have apprenticeship programs for lineworkers, machinists, electricians, meter electricians, utility constructions workers and cable splicers.
APPA's annual Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo includes a track for apprentices to participate in the rodeo, as well as offers courses to help them improve their skills.