IBEW Local 115 was chartered on May 6, 1926. Since then they and their ECAO partners have continued to deliver world class electrical services in Belleville, Brockville, Cornwall, and Kingston.
When asked what he is proudest of, Business Manager Bill Pearse doesn’t hesitate. “In the last five years, our new training program has really taken us to a higher level,” he says.
“Thanks to our program, our apprentices are learning that they can do excellent quality work in the same time it takes non-union workers to do a second-rate or even unsafe job.”
Currently, apprentices take at least six additional courses that aren’t taught in community colleges, which gives them an advantage on work sites.
Pearse explains, “We not only have a full time training director now, but also two part time trainers, one of which is a woman.”
For a local consisting of only 585 members, this is a significant investment. But Pearse is keen to attract the best quality apprentices to help maintain his local’s competitive edge in the marketplace.
“We’re doing an apprentice intake right now, and we have over 100 applicants. We look for bright kids who want to learn, but we’re also attracting young people who already have two or three-year technology degrees.”
Musing on recent concern about the shortage of skilled trades in Ontario, Pearse says, “There is no shortage of electricians in this province, only a shortage of cheap ones.”
Embracing New Technology
New, more efficient technologies are appearing at a faster rate than ever before. Local 115’s new training program allows them to adapt quickly to these changing market demands.
While training for apprentices is a priority, there are also courses to help journeypersons who constantly need to upgrade their skills. One popular course teaches the powering and wiring of EV (electric vehicle) charging stations.
Courses on networked lighting (“LiFi” or “light fidelity”) are in development. The training team is exploring the use of virtual reality training tools in the program.
Trusted With the Region’s Most Important Infrastructure Projects
Many of the local’s members are currently working on the Napanee Generating Station, a natural gas co-generation plant that will provide a cleaner alternative to the coal plants that have been shut down throughout Ontario. During the solar boom, Local 115 was heavily involved in wiring solar farms in the area.
Local 115 has also worked on a number of healthcare and university facilities, like the Kingston General Hospital, the Providence Care Hospital, and the Health and Wellness Centre at Queen’s University.
A new infant formula dairy is also underway. The Canada Royal Milk Dairy, owned by Feihe International, will see the export of formula to help nurture China’s next generation. The $225 million facility represents a significant investment for the area and will create hundreds of jobs. When completed, the dairy will be the first cow and goat infant formula dairy in North America.
Supporting Worthy Causes in the Community
Community support is very important to the members of Local 115. Over the years they have supported a number of causes including Habitat for Humanity and the Smiles Campaign, which gives brightly coloured pillow cases to children with cancer who must stay overnight in the hospital. “We hope the cheer these kids get from the bright colours gives them a morale boost,” says Pearse.
The Brockville Hospital is a favourite cause. “We’ve worked on a number of improvements at that hospital,” says Pearse, “and we take every opportunity we can to give back.”
A March 2018 donation of $10,000 to the University Hospital Kingston Foundation helped pay for new triage beds in the Emergency department.
Every year for the past five years, Local 115 has donated 10 season tickets to help kids and their mentors in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program enjoy Ontario, Central, and American Hockey league games.
Concern Over Safety As OCOT Contemplates Regulation Changes
If there’s one shadow on an otherwise positive horizon, it’s the forthcoming Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) review of the scope of work for electricians.
OCOT is considering allowing non-electricians to do some tasks that can currently only be done by certified electricians. Pearse is deeply concerned that these changes may increase safety hazards for electricians, other construction workers, and the public that uses completed facilities.
“There’s a reason you have electricians do things like install conduit,” says Pearse. “And that’s because they can be deadly they’re not done correctly. Dozens of tragedies led to the creation of these rules, and we’re going to see many more if they’re thrown away.”