Chapter Corner

Southwire Embraces Sustainability Through Apprenticeship

Posted in: Features, July 2016

southwire-2.gifApprenticeships create well-prepared workers with the best form of education: experience. An apprentice will shadow and work for an electrical contractor, while also learning the trade in a classroom setting. Southwire supports apprentices and believes in the mission of IEC’s apprentice program, which is to enhance the independent electrical contractor’s success by developing a professional workforce and providing leadership for the electrical industry.

With the proper training provided by IEC, the workforce produced by this program becomes an important asset to the electrical industry. It not only allows students to learn about the field’s newest, most innovative products, it also provides the skills required to sustain the workforce for generations to come. Southwire develops sustainable labor by investing in people and communities through IEC’s highly effective apprenticeship program and involvement at national apprenticeship shows.

The Industry Is Changing

Southwire understands that the industry is changing rapidly due to the influx of innovation to the market. Our goal is to support the IEC apprenticeship program in keeping pace with these emerging innovations.

“The educational documentation and training methods are not keeping pace with product innovation,” said Bill Fowler, manager of Training and Customer Engagement at Southwire, who works with the IEC apprentice program. “One of our goals at Southwire is to standardize best practices across the industry by exposing students to the latest innovations versus taught habits.”

The education and experience needs to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible in order to yield the most success for the electrical industry. Southwire has donated nine pulling packages retailing at $10,000 to IEC, all including: SIMpull® CoilPAK™ Mini Wire Payoffs, MAXIS® 6K Cable Puller, QWIKrope™ Pulling Rope, SIMpull Head® Pulling Grips, SIMpull Stack™ Reel, Maxisjax® Triggers, GUIDEit™ Circuit Router, GRIPit™ Circuit Size Pulling Head, assorted hand tools, and Swivel and Clevis. These donations have been used to educate young electricians on the new technology because this new equipment is not in a manual.

Experience with current equipment in a controlled learning environment is important because knowledge coupled with hands-on training provides a real-life work experience that cannot be read in a code book. This way the apprentices are more educated, which benefits both electricians and their clients in the long run.

Incentivizing Apprentices in the Work Experience Program

Within the program itself, there are measures in place to ensure apprentices are engaged and incentivized to go above and beyond expectations. Each year, students in the Top Apprenticeship Program are chosen to participate in hands-on product training in Southwire’s Carrollton, Georgia, facilities. On these trips, Southwire donates employee hours to train contractors through product demonstrations. The students are given a detailed tutorial on how to use our complete set of solutions on the jobsite. At the end of the day, students can choose one of nine hand tools to take with them.

While learning in an interactive setting is extremely valuable, another aspect of being an apprentice is observing processes and paying close attention to skills that will be applicable in their professional career. These field trips provide a behind-the-scenes glance at wire and cable production as well as insight into professional methods and applications of our products in the field. By opening up our doors to students – along with donating new, sustainable products – Southwire creates a learning environment that ultimately helps the program be successful.

“Why do we support this program?” Fowler asked. “We value fostering safety, production, and innovation.”

Sustainability and the Industry

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Field work is intense, and hands-on experience with the equipment is essential to safety and sustainability. As people search for more efficient methods to work, equipment rises to meet those needs by becoming ergonomic and economic solutions. This simultaneous adaptation of jobsite equipment to laboring people significantly reduces mistakes and repair costs. At Southwire, this move toward sustainable labor fuels our support of the apprentice program.

For example, SIMpull Solutions® innovations have taken a comprehensive view of contractor activity – including planning, ordering, handling, setup, installation, storage, cleanup, and waste - and work towards finding innovative ways to improve safety and productivity in each phase. While each solution helps improve productivity on its own, when used as a complete system they combine to help provide a significant impact on the time, margins, and labor associated with all wire and cable installations.

“One of the key benefits of having a company such as Southwire as an industry partner is we feel confident that our members can tap into their expertise,” stated Tim Welsh, IEC National SVP of Business Development and Industry Relations.

IEC apprentice education is the epitome of Southwire’s core values. Our partnership with IEC expresses the use of collaboration to benefit the overall goal of applying safe and easy-to-use equipment to the work field. We take pride in developing new technology to share with IEC and our other partners, so that we all can come together to create a sustainable workforce geared for future generations. Southwire’s expertise, as explained by Welsh, is one of the key benefits to the partnership. Even experienced workers must continue learning and practicing on new equipment to teach the upcoming generation of contractors. This is where Southwire benefits the program by providing donations and first-hand current knowledge. IEC’s vision is “independence through unity,” which shows the necessity of partnership even in an independent business community. Both Southwire and IEC see collaboration as a backbone to success.

The work experience this program provides is valued not only by IEC and the apprentices but also by Southwire. The investment Southwire makes into this program benefits all aspects of the electrical industry from electricians to product distributors. A current international business goal is sustainability, and we believe that apprentice programs are the gateway to expanding the longevity of the workforce. This is why Southwire values and invests in apprenticeship.

Bill Fowler is the manager of the Training & Customer Engagement at Southwire.

Tom Feissle is the vice president of Contractor Business Development at Southwire.