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StewartGordon.jpgI continue to be impressed by the growth of the Independent Electrical Contractors’ (IEC) Apprentice Training Program. The nearly 40 percent increase in apprentice enrollment numbers over the past year is evidence that people are recognizing the need for highly trained professionals in the electrical industry. In my local chapter, IEC Texas Gulf Coast, there are more than 700 apprentices currently enrolled; all of whom are employed with a member company.

As I think about our apprentices, I am constantly reminded of their diverse backgrounds and what attracted them to the electrical industry. One group of apprentices that I have watched closely is America’s heroes — our veterans. Veterans have been a cornerstone of the American electrical industry for years. Many of our volunteer leaders, including some IEC National Board of Directors members, are veterans.

I was a member of the Army Reserves when I was hired by a company which performed electrical services. The military experience taught me discipline, problem solving, and commitment — all of which helped me in my civilian job. The company always supported me when taking time off to serve my commitment to our country. After eight years of serving in the reserves while still employed by the electrical contractor, I retired with the rank of Captain.

IEC is committed to making a veteran’s transition to the electrical industry as seamless as possible. The majority of IEC chapter Apprenticeship Programs are approved training providers under the G.I. Bill. Additionally, chapters offer direct entry preference to veterans.

A career as an electrician is rewarding and in high demand. The need for skilled workers in this great trade is higher than ever. Additionally, this is a field that will always be essential and continually grow as more of our everyday lives are reliant on energy.

It is our responsibility as employers and business owners to help lower the high unemployment rate among veterans. I encourage my fellow IEC members and our chapters to partner with local veteran support groups such as Department of Veterans Affairs and Hire a Hero. We should draw from the unique set of abilities that veterans possess.

We are so proud and appreciative to all of the brave men and women who have served our great nation. As they return home from the duty of making our world safer, they will always have a place with IEC.

Gordon Stewart is IEC’s 2014 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Stewart serves as chair to the Board of Directors, House of Delegates, and Executive Committee. He has been in the electrical industry for 35 years and is currently the General Manager at Joe Swartz Electric in Houston, Texas.