Merit Shop contractors expand to Greater Nashville area

IEC adds Middle Tennessee to growing membership & services for merit shop electrical & systems contractors. Boasting an initial roster of nearly a dozen top contractor member companies and 65 1st year apprentices from across the Greater Nashville area, the IEC Middle Tennessee will continue the mission of the national organization by providing networking opportunities and fostering career and leadership development to members who work in and around the electrical industry. I had the opportunity to sit down with Perry Patterson, Chapter Board President from Team Electrical Contracting, Inc. to learn about what motivated them to create a chapter.

How did the idea of forming an IEC chapter in Middle Tennessee come about? How did the group of board members come together?

We had received an email from John Mackey, who at the time was the General Manager of CED here in Nashville, to get together with some contractors to come and meet with IEC at a place called Wild Horse. We went to the meeting and listed to a presentation from IEC. The more I listened, the more I knew that this was something we needed to have an IEC chapter here (in Nashville). The group planned another meeting to begin the process of starting a chapter.

Did everyone know each other prior to the first meeting with IEC?

No. Most of us had not met before. There were about eight of us that met at Wild Horse. I was amazed that so many people showed an interest.

What was the primary goal that the initial leaders wanted to achieve with establishing an IEC chapter?

Once the board members were selected, we started hashing out a plan. We knew we had students that wanted to go to school this year and we needed to get our 501©6 status (from the IRS) as well as getting the apprenticeship standards together. We also hosted a couple of events to raise awareness. We had a successful foreman class and made plans for other professional development classes. In the end, we all decided together that the most important thing for us, at that point, was to focus on starting the apprenticeship school.

IECMT enrolled nearly 70 students in its inaugural year 1 class this September. That’s quite an achievement. What plans are in place to continue the success of the apprenticeship program?

Well right now, we have a couple of places we can go, but we found out a week before class started, that they had sold the building and that we had until March 31 to find somewhere else. Right now, our biggest challenge is to find a place that we can hold class plus look into the future. We’re going to be finishing up this year and within the month we’ll be starting the second year and another first year. We’ll be looking for two classrooms that we can meet at night. We’ll be looking for more instructors.

As we do this, I want to do a membership drive where we all go face-to-face with the contractors we know and put stuff in front of them and let them know what we have going on. We have talked about getting more industry partners into our organization. We talked to different people at Convention and got different ideas on that. We have some growing to do. We want to do it simple right now with a low rate until we get bigger. It’s hard to sell them when we don’t have anything to offer. Sometimes, it felt like we were getting the cart before the horse. If we could pick up at least 6 more members before next year, we could even have 100 students in the first year and if we could retain 55 students, we know we would have two second-year classes and four first-year classes.

How do you believe that IEC’s apprenticeship training will impact the electrical contracting industry in your area?

That’s pretty simple. I taught at a school for four years and my wife was Assistant Director of Education there for 10 years and I have people who graduated there that can’t even wire a 4-way switch.

I think that with IEC and as I read the curriculum and looked at everything. Knowing they are getting hands-on training and knowing that they are supposed to wire a 3 and 4 way switch coming out of the first year and just looking at the different ways that it teaches compared to the other classes that I know of, I know we could do something with this. It will elevate the profession.

Now that Middle Tennessee is a full IEC chapter, what do you hope to accomplish during the next year?

Our goal is to get six new contractor members by the end of spring. We also want to look at other offerings to add value to the membership. Recruiting industry partners is also on the list. The other thing I’m going to push, although I know we are not there yet, is to have ownership of a training facility with office space. I know it’s down the road, but leasing a place for four nights a week, four hours a night, just doesn’t seem practical.

It’s also important to all of us to give back to the community and to the whole industry. In Nashville, our workforce is just not adequate. Well-trained electricians are in short supply, and I’m sure there are several places around the country in that are in the same boat. We knew that once we started the apprenticeship program and knew we had it going, would have something of real value to offer and that we weren’t just eight guys sitting around the table talking about what we wanted to do.

Anything else you’d like readers to know.

Teamwork made everything possible. Everyone came together to make this happen and I couldn’t be prouder of the our board.

How was your experience at your first IEC Convention?

I thought it was awesome. I really did. Bonnie loved it. I loved it. I thought it was great. In fact, I wish I would have come earlier and stayed for the whole thing. I really enjoyed going on the expo floor, talking to people, looking at the new technologies and having some of the industry partners like Schneider and Milwaukee come up and talk and meet them. I know there were other things we could have done as far as the classes and you know with not knowing what to expect. Next year, I think we’ll have even more Board members join us.

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