Connect 4 offers adult apprenticeship program

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Connect 4 program held an informational meeting Tuesday night to introduce area residents to the new apprenticeship training classes available.

Kathy Fulks, executive director of the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation (ACEF) discussed the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Arkansas Apprenticeship classes to be held at the Carroll County Career Center starting this fall.

“This is for industrial electricians, basically those electricians who operate in an industrial environment as opposed to commercial or residential,” she said. “All three of them are terribly different.”

Fulks said the classes will feature a four-year apprenticeship program to help the apprentices prepare for their Arkansas Electrician (Master/Journeyman) License and Exam.

“You have to go through four calendar years of classes to hold the license,” she said, “including 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 hours of classroom instruction. That is mandated by the state of Arkansas for you to sit for your Journeyman exam.”

Fulks continued, “We are a federal program, a registered apprenticeship program, in the state of Arkansas. Every electrician, electrical contractor and plumbing contractor in the state of Arkansas has to go through these requirements.”

She said the apprenticeship classes will be held at the career center on Thursday night every week and one Monday night each month. She said the class time is flexible and can be adjusted to meet the needs of those who are interested.

“We just need to know when people want to meet for classes that night,” Fulks said. “There hasn’t been a lot of communication between us because I don’t know who they are yet, and they probably don’t know who I am. So this was a meet-and-greet.”

She continued, “We’re trying to figure out where you are standing on shift work and what we can do to mitigate that. We’re really flexible.”

Fulks said the program offers instruction through correspondence by providing instructional materials through mail or electronic transmission for apprentices who aren’t always able to attend the classes.

“We don’t do online. It doesn’t seem to work very well for people who like to work with their hands,” she said. “Correspondence has worked out really well for our other programs. It was a learning curve, and it’s taken us a while to figure it out. Correspondence will help with anybody that’s engaging in shift work or maybe has to travel.”

Chris Graham will be the instructor for the classes. As an electrical contractor himself, he said he was interested in helping with the program because more people are needed in the trades.

“The reason I’m interested in doing this is I and every other contractor around have a hard time finding qualified help,” he said. “We don’t really have people going into these programs like we used to. We need to try to get more people into the trades, or we’re all going to be in trouble.”

Fulks said she has seen plant workers graduate from the program, get hired by industrial plants and work their way up to management.

“One of our instructors is now the director of environmental services at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA),” she said. “He’s an electrician who went through our program.”

Fulks said the state has seen a big growth this year in the number of people entering apprenticeship programs.

“We’ve grown by about 20 percent this year,” she said. “We have almost 875 apprentices across the state. We weren’t expecting any growth this year.”

Rodney Ellis, president of the Connect 4 Board of Directors, said the apprenticeship classes will follow a high school schedule, starting after Labor Day and running all the way through the spring. The classes will take a break during the summer, he said.

Fulks said the classes cost about $835 a year.

“If we raise tuition, we never raise it more than $10 or $15,” she said.

“It’s pretty cheap,” Ellis said. “A lot of employers will even reimburse sometimes.”

“A lot of times workers will pay the first time,” Fulks said, “and when they get their grade report and turn it in the employer will pay them back.”

“Chris pays for his guys,” Ellis said, “because he wants to get them to a Journeyman level.”

Fulks said she has left copies of the syllabus and the registration packet at the career center. She said she will return next week to bring up some textbooks and other materials.

Ellis said the syllabus and registration packet will be available in the Connect 4 main office at 1002 S. Main St. in Berryville for anyone interested in the apprenticeship program.

For more information, Ellis said people can call the Carroll County Career Center at 870-438-7024 between 8 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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