IEC Foundation Provides Very Real Benefits to IEC Chapters

By IEC Staff 

“When I first came to IEC Central Ohio more than 20 years ago, it was to an office not much larger than a closet,” says Barbara Tipton, IEC Central Ohio executive director. “I was the first executive director of this chapter, and we were doing our training all off-site at a couple of different locations.” 

Barb says chapter members always have been amazing. In the early years — IEC Central Ohio has been around since 1998 — member contractors would open their facilities for classes and labs and maybe even teach. There were about 30 contractor members and 60 to 80 apprentices at the time. 

With the need for more electricians, they soon outgrew this arrangement. Within a couple of years and due to generous members, they were able to move into a place with two classrooms of their own, including labs. 

This also was due to the Independent Electrical Contractors Foundation and Barb learning how to approach them to help them equip those facilities. 

“I would say that the IEC Foundation purchased every chair, table, and whiteboard in our first two classrooms and they have continued to support us over the years as we’ve grown,” Barb says. “We’ve expanded again and again until just a couple of years ago, we purchased the building that we’re in now that boasts of 14 classrooms, with labs included, and offices for our team. The Foundation has provided us with upwards of $200,000 in equipment and other donations over the years.” 

The building is 31,000 square feet, and IEC Central Ohio occupies 80 percent of it, renting space to a couple of small, long-time tenants. Future expansion remains a possibility — maybe even a probability beginning in June 2024. Barb says its location is ideal and central Ohio is ripe with construction and therefore the need to train more electricians. 

“We have a tremendous amount of work going on in central Ohio right now with tech companies,” Barb says. “Google, Intel, Facebook, and Magellan are all building within 15 miles of the training center. Our members are hiring and the IEC Apprenticeship Program has a very, very good reputation. We have about 20 instructors, hold classes daily Monday through Thursday, and have about 650 apprentices including our mid-year classes which began in January.” 

Elsewhere in the state, IEC Western Reserve too is experiencing growth and is equally as grateful to the IEC Foundation for its support along the way. Marilyn McConnell is executive director of IEC Western Reserve and she calls their chapter “one of the smaller ones.” 

“Three of the original five founding members are active in IEC Western Reserve today,” says Marilyn. “Aey Electric, Inc.; B&J Electric of Poland, Inc.; and Enertech Electrical, Inc. have been joined by another 10 or so active and dedicated contractors. We have two classrooms with extensive labs and our latest apprentice numbers are about 50. We are on a busy road near an interstate and we have great visibility in the community which makes it great for merit shop contractors as well as current and future apprentices.” 

Marilyn says the chapter purchased its building in December of 2014 and have about 2,500 square feet to accelerate learning. Like Barb, Marilyn knows that being able to apply for and receive IEC Foundation grants has allowed her chapter to upgrade their labs to be competitive in the marketplace. It also allows them to see that their ‘asks’ of the contractor members are better suited to their expertise and not solely financial. 

In addition to Foundation grants, IEC Western Reserve has secured local grants for purchasing tablets, computers, and more to reflect today’s learning and technology use in the field. 

“Recently, with the help of the IEC Foundation, we were able to double the size of our smaller classroom to be on par with our large classroom,” Marilyn states. “This, of course, offers a better environment for learning and we are extremely grateful to the IEC Foundation for their assistance with that.” 

They hope to grow the classroom space and increase the number of apprentices and continue to offer world-class training through the excellent IEC curriculum and top-notch labs, says Marilyn. 

“To keep growing, we have to continue to upgrade our labs, expand our classes, and prepare our apprentices for this challenging field,” Marilyn says. “Apprentices are committed and hard-working. They have full-time jobs and then they come here two nights a week. It is our responsibility to provide them with a stable learning environment. It is so rewarding when you see them transition to year 3 or 4 when they begin to see that light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve earned it. We are grateful to the IEC Foundation for helping us provide that world-class training.” 



Foundation Support Allows Chapters to Get Creative 

When chapter leaders can depend upon Foundation funding for equipment and training center expansion, they can devote additional time to seeking out new and effective ways to continue to attract new apprentices to the trade. For IEC Central Ohio, one promising venture is its new Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The IEC Central Ohio Pre-Apprenticeship Program in 2023 saw some 22 young people come to its training facility through a community program called Lead the Way. 

“These students are provided with tools and work boots and good safety training during the summer, and they see if a career in the trades is for them,” Barb offers. “We continued to train 12 pre-apprentice students through this program into the school year. Lead the Way has expanded over the years due to its success and they work mostly with high schools in the inner city.” 

For IEC Western Reserve, it’s inviting potential apprentices to their classrooms and labs through open houses, inviting the local TV station to film a segment about electrical apprenticeship, and continuing to find ways to keep tuition costs stable. 

“Our apprentices often have to kick in all or some of the funds for their training; it’s up to individual contractor members to handle that with their apprentices,” Marilyn says. “Therefore, the chapter does its best to keep costs affordable, which includes books and tablet use throughout the program.” 

Both Barb and Marilyn are quick to point out that in addition to the Foundation, their contractor members and industry partners always are quick to step up and lend support — financial and other. 

 “Our members are very generous and I believe that we would we would be in good shape with classes, but probably would not have been able to expand our center as quickly as we have,” Barb says. “We’ve made great strides in our facilities because of the generosity of our members and that of the Foundation.” 

Both executive directors feel support is a two-way street and do whatever they can to spread the word to their members and apprentices about the Foundation’s support. They also throw support back the Foundation’s way when they hold fundraisers or service projects, like the Top Golf event and community service project at SPARK in Dallas. 


IEC Central Ohio


IEC Western Reserve


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