May 2007
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EMAIL INTERVIEW - Marty Riesberg, NJATC & Joe Salimando of www.eleblog.com

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) www.njatc.org, the national training organization of the organized electrical industry (NECA-IBEW), is sponsoring a track at BuilConn in Chicago (May 22-24 – www.builconn.com).

[NECA = National Electrical Contractors Association.
IBEW = International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.]

Salimando, the proprietor of the EleBlog – and a freelance writer, editor, and marketing consultant in the electrical construction industry – recently interviewed Marty Riesberg, the Director of Electrical Technologies and Automation for the NJATC.

Note that the NJATC develops curriculum for the training of electrical apprentices and journeymen. This curriculum is adopted and used by nearly 300 local JATCs (Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees) in the U.S.

Nearly 40,000 electrical, telecommunications, line, and residential apprentices are now undergoing training; there are skill upgrade courses offered to journeymen as well.


NECA-IBEW at BuilConn

The NJATC is taking an active role in the upcoming BuilConn because there seems to be a general feeling in the building automation industry that there is a “lack of training” in the field.

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Salimando: Why is the national training arm of NECA and IBEW sponsoring sessions at BuilConn?

Riesberg: The NJATC is taking an active role in the upcoming BuilConn because there seems to be a general feeling in the building automation industry that there is a “lack of training” in the field.

The NJATC’s primary focus will be to address this issue on behalf of IBEW workers and their employers – as it has done for more than 65 years.

Salimando: What makes electricians and their contractor employers the right people to handle design, installation, and maintenance of the smart, intelligent, integrated, automated – or whatever you want to call it – building?

Riesberg: Electricians are the natural choice to install these systems because this is only a natural extension of their existing scope of work. The electricians are already supplying the power wiring to all of the equipment that is controlled by an automated system. In many cases the electricians are also mounting and wiring the sensors and actuators associated with the control system – so it is a very logical next step to supply the overall system programming and configuration as well.

Additionally many of these new "low voltage" technology systems are replacing systems that were traditionally done by electricians using conventional wiring. As a result, electricians already understand the function of many of these systems.

Salimando: What kind of training on these technologies do electrical apprentices routinely get?

Riesberg: Each apprentice, as he/she completes a 3- to 5-year apprenticeship, receives training in the installation and wiring of the “hardware” associated with a building automation system. Each apprentice also receives an overview of the fundamentals of network programming.

Salimando: Describe the training, if any is offered, that graduated journeyman electricians can obtain from their local Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees in the automated buildings area.

Riesberg: Journeymen/journeywomen can take additional training which provides the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to configure and commission a Building Automation System. The training offered by the NJATC includes the programming and software necessary to install and configure a BAS with several open protocols.

Control Solutions, Inc Salimando: What is required of the electrical contractors who venture into intelligent or automated buildings?

Riesberg: Thanks to the competencies they need to do routine electrical work, the electrical contractors need only to insure competency in two additional areas.

• Any integrator must have a firm grasp on the intended purpose and operation of the system they intend to control. In the case of electrical contractors, since they are already responsible for the installation and setup of many of the other systems within a building, the only system which they may not be highly competent on is the HVAC system. The NJATC’s training does provide additional information about each of the systems within a building.

• One of the primary skills necessary to configure and commission a BAS is basic computer literacy. This need can usually be filled by younger members of the existing staff.

Salimando: What are the NECA-IBEW and NJATC plans for the future, in elevating the role of electrical contractors in intelligent/automated systems?

Riesberg: The NJATC is currently in the process of enhancing its existing building automation training. This enhancement includes the creation of the first-of-its-kind series of two books – for use in training – on the subject of building automation. The two books are entitled.

• Building Automation: Control Devices and Applications; and
• Building Automation: System Integration with Open Protocols

There are books on the market about building automation – but none cover the installation and configuration aspects. The NJATC is working with American Technical Publishers (ATP) (www.go2atp.com) on this project. ATP will make these books available to the market in the second quarter of 2008.

We feel that enhancing the quality and quantity of our building automation training will allow electrical workers to be better prepared to work in this evolving industry.

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