ST. LOUIS -- Smart infrastructure, including smart roads, and innovations in energy storage and micro grid technology are coming to Missouri, but will the state have the skilled workforce needed to build it? Jim Curran, executive vice president, Electrical Connection, gave a resounding yes. Curran was among the speakers and moderators at the third conference this year in the Midwest Energy Policy Series (MEPS) presented by the Missouri Energy Initiative (MEI). The Electrical Connection represents a partnership that develops and trains the vast majority of highly skilled electricians and communication technicians that serve the state’s technology and energy needs. The day-long MEPS conference was held on Dec. 5, 2018 at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 hall and training center.
The Electrical Connection is a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association. Curran spoke on workforce and Electric Vehicles as well as moderated the panel discussion on Future Technology Pushing Today’s Economy. It featured Tim Arbeiter, director of broadband for the State of Missouri, Tim Sylvester, CEO, Integrated Roadways, and Tim McMahon, senior vice president of advocacy and government relations, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)
“It is time for the Show Me State to stop having the world show us and time we started showing the world what Missouri does,” said Curran. He noted that under leadership of Director Dennis Gralike, the staff of the IBEW/NECA Electrical Industry Training Center in St. Louis helped develop the national curriculum for fixed electrical vehicle charging stations. Working with OEMs, Gralike’s staff developed the first-ever Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) launched in 2011 and now the standard for supporting EV infrastructure. “For the EV market to be successful, there had to be assurances of reliable fixed charging stations,” noted Curran. “Having quality, licensed contractors and a skilled and safe workforce to install charging stations was critical for the EV consumer experience, if the market was to expand.”
Curran added that Gralike’s team is now engaged in training for energy storage and micro grid certification, partnering with Penn State nationally. “We have talent, skilled resources based here now in Missouri to not only be competitive but to lead the way worldwide in new technology development, installation and acceptance,” noted Curran. IBEW/NECA invests more than $3 million annually in training. For more than 75 years, its training has been free of charge and at no taxpayer expense and allows apprentices to earn a living with benefits while they take the 78-course curriculum at the training center. It also offers continuing education for journey workers.
Echoing Curran comments on workforce readiness was John McClain executive consultant with Cornerstone Consulting. McClain, who has more than 45 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, served on the Energy, Economic Development and Missouri panel discussion. He presented a case study in Kentucky, a right-to-work state, where a manufacturer was having issues with power supply and distribution until McClain brought in the Electrical Connection partnership to fix the problems.
“No state should have policies in place that suppress skilled workforce development,” noted McClain. “The Electrical Connection’s industry-funded training program is the standard for pace-setting skills and safety serving Missouri’s energy and technology needs. It’s a great asset to Missouri and is exported to other states whose policies have led to skilled training atrophy.”
Joining McClain on his panel discussion were Byron DeLear, regional executive, Ygrene Energy Fund and Randy Moore, CEO, ZAF Energy Systems.
The other panel discussions were Energy Providers Spurring Economic Development featuring Mike Kearney, vice president, economic development, Ameren, and Drew Robinson, manager of renewables KCP&L, Spire, Inc. There was also a 2019 Legislative Outlook featuring Missouri Senator Ed Emery and Representative Rocky Miller.
The Missouri Energy Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of public and private-sector entities working together to increase energy economic development, innovation, and education throughout the state. MEI serves as an independent public policy group on emerging energy issues and focuses on being a trusted source of energy information for Missouri and the Midwest. The organization encourages creative collaborations and promotes affordable, reliable and sustainable energy efforts. For more information, visit www.moenergy.orgFor more than 100 years, the Electrical Connection IBEW/NECA has been the “go to” resource for safe and reliable electrical and communications construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world.