Union electricians, contractors to build $7.5 million training center

The Tri-City chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is preparing to build a Joint Apprentice Training Center in Kennewick.

IBEW 112, together with the Spokane-based Inland Empire chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, expects to solicit bids from contractors in early 2023 and break ground next spring. The project will cost an estimated $7.5 million and will be built on an undeveloped 1.5-acre site at 142 N. Edison St.

The 1.5-acre site is next to the existing meeting hall, 114 N. Edison St., near West Clearwater Avenue.

IBEW serves about 1,200 members in eight counties in Southeast Washington and eight in northeast Oregon, said Travis Swayze, business manager for IBEW 112.

The JATC will train electricians to meet growing demand, which Swayze attributes to data centers, solar farms and windmills.

The Montague Solar Facility in northeast Oregon is one example of the work available in the utility field as green energy projects march north from California and Oregon.

“Now we’re going to see them in Washington,” he said.

The joint IBEW 112-NECA five-year inside wireman apprenticeship program accepts 70 to 80 apprentices per year out of 500 applications. The next application period opens Jan. 1. Trainees typically begin in their 20s.

It currently trains 270 apprentices through a facility on West Gage Boulevard, up from about 150 just five years ago. That property will be sold once the new training center is operational.

Swayze credits the growing popularity of apprenticeships to recognition that being a union electrician can be a good career that pays family wages, benefits and provides for retirement. High school and even college counselors increasingly recognize the merit of referring students to apprenticeship programs, he said.

The JATC will be 26,000 square feet, according to documents submitted by J-U-B Engineering to the city of Kennewick for environmental review. Design West is managing the project, which will be built with union labor.

The JATC will complement IBEW’s Kennewick meeting hall. The 17,500-square-foot hall was constructed in 2019 at a cost of $3.4 million. At the time, IBEW said the new facility tripled the amount of space at its former quarters on West Albany Avenue.

Like the union hall, the JATC is being designed with the future in mind.

“We’re not trying to build it for a year from now, but for 10 years from now,” Swayze said.

Go to: bit.ly/Apprenticeshipapp.

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