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An Interview with Kevin McNulty, Executive Director for Midwest Independent Electrical Contractors Association

on May 1, 2018

Kevin McNulty, Sr. is the Executive Director for Midwest IEC, a chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors Association representing the Chicago metropolitan area and Northwest Indiana.  He has managed Midwest IEC for eleven years. Mr. McNulty is a frequent speaker in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico on logistics, the remodeling industry, education and general business. Kevin holds a B.A. in Education from Illinois State University, a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois and did his MBA work at Keller Graduate School of Management.

Q: What can our industry do to keep the trades in front of high school students that may have an interest in the industry?

As a former high school teacher of twenty years, I can confirm that the background of high school counselors is comprised of an extremely low percentage of individuals with knowledge of the trades. Any initiative that can present the trades to high schools and community colleges could have an impact. The audience for future professionals in our industry is with the youth of our country. As I visit high schools in our area, I sense an increased interest in a career that does not require the high cost of a college education.

Q: What are some of the benefits for high school students considering the trades as an option versus traditional 2 or 4-year Universities?

Clearly, the return on investment is much greater. By seeking a career in the trades, young people can begin work immediately while they attend school in the evening. The ratio between the cost of a two and four-year education to the prospective jobs available for a high percentage of the careers available to college students is out of kilter. Many employers who hire apprentices pay for the education they receive from trade schools. This occurs with great frequency simply because the demand for workers in the trades is so great. Simple economics puts young apprentices in an advantageous position in today’s market. Young candidates and their families are realizing more than ever before the risk associated with high debt to get an education in a field that does not offer enough income to recover from such debt. Trade schools eliminate that risk all together.

Q: Tell the audience about the Midwest IEC Apprentice School and how the move to the new location is working out.

Our recent move to Crown Point, Indiana has increased our capacity tremendously. Beyond the increased physical size, it has allowed us to add lab stations to accommodate our increased number of students. We have added technology to our training center that now allows us to take advantage of the IEC instructional materials available to IEC Chapters. Our new modern facility is more attractive to students who are considering training, and we can now take advantage of equipment and materials offered to us by our many supplier members, such as Wheatland Tube, which are used to train students.”  The Midwest IEC Apprenticeship program is a four-year program comprised of classroom and on the job training which leads to graduation as a journeyman electrician.

Students attend school one evening per week for 3 ½ hours while they work full-time with our member companies. Member companies sign agreements to provide experiences on the job that match the curriculum offer students over a four-year period. These two components are required by the Department of Labor to qualify as an agency approved to train for a journeyman’s card after four years of training.

This year, our total student population is approximately thirty-seven students. Our enrollments have continued to grow since the 2008 recession which impacted our members’ ability to hire apprentices. For the first few years following the recession our members were striving to keep people. Now, all trades, including our electrical contractors, area actively seeking more people due to the improved economy.

Q: How can people apply to the Midwest IEC Apprenticeship program?  What are the requirements?

A high school diploma or GED is required as well as successfully completing our basic math competency exam. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and have their own means of transportation. In addition, we run a drug test on all applicants prior to acceptance. We register applicant each April – on all Saturday mornings at 9:00 a.m. CT, at our training center. Our school-year coincides with the normal academic school year, beginning the first Monday after Labor Day each year. To obtain information, interested individuals can send an email to Information and directions to our training center in Crown Point, Indiana will be sent immediately. Should anyone apply outside our area, we can refer them to other IEC chapters around the country who run the same program as Midwest IEC.

Q: Once a student graduates what happens?  Are there job placements or a referral program for graduating students?

Students are hired in their first year of training. While our program does not come with a guaranteed job placement with an employer the percentage of placements with an employer changes with market conditions. During the slow times following 2008, our members were in less of a position to be hired. Therefore, we adjusted the number of students we accepted to the school. Today, the hiring prospects are much stronger, and all our students are working. On rare occasions, individuals have opted to attend our school while they work in other trades to transition to our industry. Once on the job training is completed in our industry, they are paid at the journeyman’s rate in our region. Our office works diligently to place all students in positions with our member companies.

The average salary for a journeyman salary in our region is $55,000 per year. Apprentices are paid levels determined by their employers, however; the IEC publishes suggested minimum pay levels for first through fourth year apprentices. The current job market, however, finds a number of companies paying at a level designed to draw quality apprentices to their company.

Q:What other opportunities exist beyond just a journeyman electrician in the electrical industry?

Electrician’s Helper – Assists electricians by handling a bulk of the materials, caring for and organizing equipment.

Apprentice Electrician – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment under the supervision of a journeyman electrician.

Journeyman Electrician – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment. May work independently of direct technical supervision.  Supervises apprentices.  Holds a journeyman’s license in states requiring journeyman licensing. Will read blueprints, terminate cable, install and troubleshoot control wiring from drawings.

Master Electrician – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment. A master electrician may supervise journeymen electricians. This classification is sometime synonymous with the term “electrical contractor.” This classification is not recognized in all states.

Lead Person – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment. Has a journeyman’s license. Works from plans and specifications, supervises small crews of journeymen, apprentices and helpers.

Area Supervisor – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment. Has a journeyman’s license. Leads and works along with crew. Lays out the work and makes certain that the proper materials, tools and equipment are on the jobsite in their proper places. Schedules and may supervise one or multiple small crews.

Project Supervisor – Installs, alters, adds and/or repairs electrical systems, conductors and associated materials and equipment. Has a journeyman’s license. This person is responsible for all the field employees on a project, taking care of daily reports and forms, monitors the work and adheres to schedules.

Estimator – Develops profitable bid proposals, calculates takeoffs, and ensures that the company’s best interests are represented, including profitability & cost control. Provides careful analysis of project plans to guarantee accurate labor, supply, and time schedule estimates.

The opportunities are limitless in this industry, the road to success depends on the individual and their experience .   

About Independent Electrical Contractors Association (IEC)

The Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) is a nonprofit trade association federation with 50 educational campuses and affiliate local chapters across the country. IEC represents over 3,300-member business throughout the United States and educates over 10,000 electricians and systems professionals each year through world-class training programs. IEC contractor member companies are responsible for over $8.5B in gross revenue annually and are composed of some of the premier firms in the industry. Learn more about Midwest IEC