Lighting Up Chattanooga

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Students in training to receive electrical worker certification at the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center
Students in training to receive electrical worker certification at the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center

With the growing success of industry in Hamilton County, workforce challenges continue to arise as new companies move into our area and others look to replace retiring employees. The demands of these jobs often require highly-skilled and certified workers, which explains the increased focus on certification and job training in our community through Chattanooga 2.0 and programs like the Chattanooga Manufacturing Excellence Program.

In correlation with the increased demand in our automotive and manufacturing industries and overall economic growth in and around Chattanooga, there has been a rapid rise in demand for skilled electricians.

In October of 2016, the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor was brought online for commercial operation.  The $4.7 billion capital construction project was completed over a 5-year span and employed thousands of electrical workers, many of whom had to be brought in from other regions without enough workers locally to meet the demand.

Now with the recent purchase of the stagnant Bellefonte Nuclear Station in Hollywood, AL by Nuclear Development, LLC., there will be even more demand for highly skilled electrical workers in our region.  Nuclear Development plans to invest up to $13 billion to finish Bellefonte and hire 2,000 permanent, high-paying jobs along with up to 4,000 temporary construction jobs.  Many of these 6,000 jobs will be in the electrical field.  Work on Bellefonte is scheduled to begin in 2018.

More demand for skilled electricians is coming to Chattanooga as companies continue to look to our area for growth.  Google’s $600 million data center is coming to Jackson County, TN.  Wacker recently announced that work has begun on the $150 million plant expansion in Bradley County.  The Erlanger Children’s Hospital recently broke ground on a new $40 million, three-story building scheduled to open in late 2018.  These are only a few of the demands being placed on the electrical workers in our area.

The amount of work coming to Chattanooga and within a 50-mile radius continues to grow rapidly.  Jobs are here.  Employers need manpower with the skills and certifications to fill these labor needs in Hamilton County and surrounding areas.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) are working hand-in-hand to meet this need, training residents and providing certifications through the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center (JATC), a training pipeline to prepare the next generation of skilled electrical technicians.

Through training and apprenticeships, JATC enables students to become a journeyman level electrician, competent to professionally and safely work in our community.  Upon graduation, IBEW and NECA work to place each student from the center into careers.

Caleb Long, assistant business manager for IBEW Local 175, is a graduate of the JATC program and has built a successful career from the knowledge, experience, and opportunities provided by IBEW, NECA, and the JATC. 

Mr. Long now supports these job training efforts through his work with IBEW. He said, “Our local IBEW is intensely focused on training and preparing local residents for high-demand career opportunities in our community, enabling contractor partners to be very profitable while offering our residents living wages and full benefits for their families.”

The JATC is a free five-year program in which students can work full-time throughout and graduate with zero college debt.  Students generally attend classes from 6:00-8:45pm two days a week, enabling them to maintain jobs working 8-10 hour per day.  Upon completion, students will have had 1,000 hours of classroom training and 9,000 hours of on the job training.  Graduates average around $30/hour with pension retirement plans and full family medical coverage.

The training and job placement efforts of the local IBEW 175 work to not only fulfill the industry demand in our community but often to bring opportunity and economic stability to families, ending the cycle of poverty and raising our entire community along the way. 

Chattanooga Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod believes this program is a career pipeline for residents.  “The JATC has stepped up and continues to offer fully funded training for our community members that lead to lifelong careers and financial security for families.  We are grateful for the work IBEW continues to do here in Chattanooga,” Ms. Coonrod said.

These efforts embody the mission of the Chattanooga 2.0 movement that is working to connect residents with the education and jobs they need to succeed.

“To continue our economic growth and attract more high-wage jobs, we must be able to meet the workforce demands,” said Jared Bigham, executive director for Chattanooga 2.0.  “Our ability to connect students and residents with resources, like the certifications and job opportunities available through the electrical JATC, enables all residents to enjoy even greater economic success and opportunity.”

For residents who are interested in applying for for this free training and job placement program, visit for more information.

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