Perry Perkins, candidate for County Commission District 7, said he wants to see options for technical and information technology trades for Hamilton County's youth. After touring Chattanooga's Electrical Training Center, a joint educational project of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 175 and the National Electrical Contractors Association, Mr. Perkins said the county needs to identify technical education programs that are already working. He said that schools can learn from the I.B.E.W.-N.E.C.A. partnership.
Mr. Perkins said, “I've visited all schools in the district, as well as the STEM school and the Middle College program at Chattanooga State. The key to developing facilities for schools like Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts and possibly a technical high school is showing local companies what they get from a well-educated and trained workforce. Businesses are willing to invest to get good workers. CSLA can remain a nationally recognized liberal arts school and have technical programs. This could mean computer programming, robotics, or other technology-based trades.”
The I.B.E.W. Local 175 endorsed Mr. Perkins on Monday in a letter to its membership. The organization also endorsed J.B. Bennett, Jim Coppinger, Jim Hammond, Larry Henry, Sherry Paty and Russell Bean.
Keith Owensby, assistant training director, said that the center's administration wants the next generation of technically savvy students to know what their center offers. “Future generations need to have the things our fathers had – good pay, benefits, and safety at work.”
Mr. Perkins said, “The partnership between the I.B.E.W. Local 175 and the electrical contractors shows how education, labor, and the private sector can work together. These are the types of programs that can be built into schools like CSLA. The STEM model also develops from the tried and true vocational education model because it is project-based.”
Apprentices in at the Electrical Training Center take an entrance exam and apply to five-year electrical program at no cost to to the apprentice. They receive a scholarship which is reimbursed from wages after the apprentice becomes employed by an N.E.C.A. member.
Barry Key, I.B.E.W. business manager, said “There aren't many places where people can get an education that doesn't use tax dollars. We have three hundred apprentices, at no cost to taxpayers.”
Mr. Perkins is a fourth-generation paint contractor with a B.S. in Criminal Justice from UTC. Mr. Perkins said, “I myself and a tradesman and artisan, and the endorsement of the I.B.E.W. demonstrates the importance of strong technical education for the county's future."