A much improved $10 million Joint Apprentice Training Center (JATC) is now open on the Dorchester campus of the IBEW Local 103, where some 2,000 apprentice electricians are learning state-of-the-art technology in expanded classrooms and collaborative spaces.
Union officials gathered on Dec. 7 to celebrate the re-opening of the space at 194 Freeport St. that it shares with the National Electrical Contractors Association.
“The building was over 30 years old,” said Lou Antonellis, business manager and financial secretary at Local 103. “Like any building that age, it kind of needed some refurbishment and for it to be updated. It’s been in the plans for five years or so, it’s really exceeded all our expectations.”
The union’s mission is to provide Greater Boston’s developers with the best electricians and telecommunication specialists. While there are currently around 2,000 apprentices at the JACT Electrical Industry Training Center, Antonellis thinks the new resources and renovated space will only increase the number of students.
A training session inside the new JATC of Greater Boston center. Photo courtesy Local 103 IBEW
“It’s definitely a great alternative to college,” said Antonellis, whose two children are apprentices at 103. “We don’t discourage anybody from going to college – it’s a great pathway – but going to college is expensive. If you’re thinking you may not be the right fit to go to college, there’s a real career in the electrical industry that has great wages and fantastic health insurance paid for by the employer in a pension plan so you can retire one day with dignity.
And that’s a great alternative offer that we give to people that don’t want to go to college and don’t go the traditional route.”
The center also hopes to attract future apprentices through the Clean Energy Pre-Apprenticeship Program, which will bring more young people into the trade and expand its role in creating career pathways in the clean energy sector.
Secretary Lauren E. Jones of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development attended the Dec. 7 event and looks forward to making the trade more diverse. “Part of this is opening more doors for women and people of color,” said Jones, who thinks the opening will fuel the economy by providing meaningful pathways, livable wages, and supply benefits.
Antonellis said that one of the biggest challenges about the renovation was keeping the building open for current apprentices while construction was underway.
“We lost two-thirds of the building while under construction. Moving people around and changing classrooms and temporary spaces all while trying to build the place out in a timely fashion [was tough],” Antonellis said in an interview with the Reporter.
The renovated JATC of Greater Boston building on Freeport Street. Cassidy McNeeley photo
With the updates now complete, JACT has tripled its hands-on training spaces with 16 labs and 20 classrooms, all of which Antonellis hopes will positively impact the community.
“This building is Dorchester. We’re open to the community for whatever the community needs,” Antonellis said. “We want the people of Dorchester, especially the kids in the community that are looking for a career, to know the doors are open at Local 103 for a great career in the electrical industry.”