By IEC Staff
IEC is a powerful organization fueled by the magic that happens at each of its 52 chapters. That magic is the result of hardworking teams of professionals in the office, in the field, and in not yet known places as each chapter attracts the next generation of electrical apprentices.
The Northern New Mexico IEC (NNMIEC) has been around for about 40 years, says Garrett Hennessy, NNMIEC executive director. Like most chapters, its roots were a few motivated local electrical contractors looking for quality training who also had a commitment to strengthening the merit shop electrical contractor.
Over the years, they’ve been joined by more contractors looking for the same and NNMIEC boasts 54 contractor members as of first week of January 2024. Enrollment for 2024 stands at 300 first through fourth year apprentices taking advantage of that trademark IEC Apprenticeship Program.
Latest and Greatest
“We have a great blend of large and small contractors contributing to the success of NNMIEC,” Garrett says. “Many of our smaller contractor members are graduates of the IEC Apprenticeship Program at NNMIEC who then went on to start their own businesses and now put apprentices into the program one or two at a time.”
Garrett says the chapter has seen moderate growth of 6 to 7% per year over the last three years and he and the NNMIEC leadership look forward to even stronger growth — now that they own and have moved into their newly remodeled Albuquerque headquarters complete with office space, classrooms, labs, and more.
“We had been renting space for 14 years,” Garrett explains. “Now, we have a great place that we can call our own to grow a great workforce for New Mexico residents.”
Their home? A former windowless 13,000 square foot bank vault, complete with 3 windowless vaults and 12” walls, three bay doors designed for Brink’s trucks, fortress-like construction, and ample parking. The NNMIEC team had been looking to buy. When this bank property fell out of escrow and became available, the team acted quickly, Garrett reports.
“Due to Albuquerque’s tremendous growth, finding good building space with parking was challenging,” Garrett says. “When this came up, interest rates were favorable and the location was prime, so NNMIEC’s board looked at the building. That was February of 2022, and the board made the decision to buy then and there in the parking lot. Our mortgage went through in May and the following spring construction began.”
When work began NNMIEC moved to temp space one-third its original location for four months. Training Director Val McRee, a 15-year NNMIEC employee, shoehorned many weekly classes into much smaller space. Lead instructor Carlos Roybal, another 15-year NNMIEC employee, adjusted curriculum to make things work.
Along the Way
They worked with Enterprise Builders Corporation to turn the high security needs of an old bank building into the high tech needs of an electrical contracting instructional facility. At each and every step of the process, the expertise — and do-it-yourself assistance — of the NNMIEC membership was called into play to make the facility its own and to control costs. For example:
Josh Buchanan of Bright Ideas Electric, business owner and NNMIEC graduate and member, won the electrical bid. Josh worked around bullet-proof Kevlar in the walls and line after line of low voltage in the ceilings.
NNMIEC members Wilson Electric, DKD Electric, Summit Fire and Security, Centerfire Electric, and Datalinx generously donated time and materials.
CED, RKL, Schroeder, Ideal, and Summit Electric Supply donated LED lights and assisted NNMIEC with how to take advantage of available energy rebates.
NNMIEC instructors and students took it upon themselves to convert the three bank drive-in bays into up-to-date lab space. Klein Tools generously donated tools to the labs.
“Internal staffer Shae even did the painting of the final plywood on the cinderblock walls,” Garrett recalls.
Each effort was a learning experience and one step closer to realizing the dream. They even were affected by the copper theft ring throughout Albuquerque in the spring of 2023 which stopped their construction efforts for about four weeks.
In addition to the high-quality IEC curriculum and talented instructors that apprentices have come to expect at NNMIEC, they now are greeted with:
- 13,000 square feet of learning space
- 4 classrooms
- 4 labs
- 66 parking spaces
“New Mexico is spread out so much that NNMIEC offers its Apprenticeship Program one 40-hour week per quarter for a total of 160 hours each year,” Garrett says. “It would be a hardship for our apprentices to attend classes one or two nights a week as is done in many other chapters.”
Garrett is quick to acknowledge that this system works for them while other methods work for other IEC chapters. He has been more than impressed by the cooperation between chapter executives and the beneficiary of outstanding advice from his peers. He, in turn, does his part to share boldly anything he feels would help another executive director.
Garrett looks forward to continuing to grow NNMIEC and to being the go-to-location for all things electrical.
“New Mexico is a great place to live and to work. I’m a 32-year resident of New Mexico and never intend to leave,” Garrett says. “I’ve been with NNMIEC for about three years now but have been working my entire career to help people find good ways to earn a living here. Helping people enter and excel in the trades has been really gratifying.”