While most can agree that electrical workers are vital to keeping our cities running, few are aware of what it takes to get there.
Alisha Kelloway is a second-term apprentice with IBEW Local 353 and a perfect example of what it really means to be an IBEW member. Committed to both her craft and her community, Kelloway practises ‘excellence at work’ both on and off the jobsite.
“You feel that you’re part of something bigger than just going to work and going home,” she says about belonging to the IBEW.
All apprentices of IBEW Local 353 must complete four years of training from the industry’s best before they can qualify to write their Certificate of Qualification. This training takes place both in classrooms and on the jobsite, allowing IBEW apprentices the opportunity to earn while they learn.
“I believe knowledge is power. My goal is to keep learning and growing and pushing myself to become better. I love taking the courses provided by the union – I like knowing how to do things, so if they ever call on me to do something at work, I’m ready.”
Aside from the mandatory apprentice training, IBEW Local 353 also offers supplementary education to keep members on the leading edge of tomorrow’s technology and to maintain the highest-quality workmanship in the field.
“I believe the more uncomfortable you are, the more it helps you grow when you do gain that knowledge.”
As a female electrical apprentice, Kelloway is familiar with stepping outside of her comfort zone. According to Stats Canada, women account for just 4.5 per cent of skilled trade workers in Canada.
While the numbers can seem daunting for a young woman, Kelloway has found support in a network of women not so different from herself – a committee whose mandate is to bring sisters from across the union together to mentor and empower each other, driving their success in a largely male-dominated industry.
“It’s nice to get involved with people who care about their career and helping their community.”
In fact, IBEW Local 353 Women’s Committee is the first of its kind to receive its official charter.
“Our committee is not only active but vital to the sisters in the trades we have in Local 353’s jurisdiction and to the diverse threads of the local itself,” states Steven Martin, Business Manager for IBEW Local 353.
In addition to the Women’s Committee, Kelloway draws empowerment from her peers working alongside the IBEW Local 353 NextGen Committee. Through fundraising initiatives and political action, these young workers give back to the community wherever they can.
Aaron Zboch-Alves, Chairman of IBEW Local 353’s highly successful NextGen committee, explains that, “in our career, we have learned to work as a team to complete work at the highest competency and skill level. We are learning to translate these skills back to our communities.”
IBEW Local 353’s young workers are involved with food drives, community building, fundraising for charities and volunteering for political groups with the interest of bettering society.
“This generation has recognized that our responsibility does not end with our career. We want to make the industry and society better – not just for us, but for future generations,” says Zboch-Alves.
Young members like Kelloway and Zboch-Alves understand that in today’s turbulent political environment, worker’s rights are hard-earned. They’re also aware of the power of solidarity and the importance of exercising your political voice.
“We are a strong collective,” Zboch-Alves says. “With the help of the union, we can extend our reach to other collectives of every faction, to help achieve the goal of success and stability for all.”