We talk to Gilbert Soliz, Director of Education for the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) Texas Gulf Coast Chapter, about vocational education and how they have increased the level of education for their industry.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. Texasbusinessradio.com is the Web site. I’m your host Matt Register. Jay Curry is over there in the co-host chair as usual. We’re talking about trade associations. Trade associations play a very important role in our economy. We’re going to talk specifically about education because some of the educational opportunities available through trade associations are, are quite remarkable. I’m not sure I had a good understanding of just how extensive they were until fairly recently. Jay what do you think?
Jay Curry: Absolutely. You know in my generation, where my parents were in the depression and I was a baby boomer. It was all about going to college. We have finally figured out that there’s a huge need that doesn’t require college and serves the country well, serves the individual well. It’s, it’s really, really important and I think a big part of the future for America.
Matt Register: Yeah. No. No doubt about that. The IEC, the Independent Electrical Contractor Association, Gulf Coast Chapter, a longtime friend of the show. Gilbert Soliz, director of education is here in the studio. Gilbert welcome to the show sir.
Gilbert Soliz: Thank you sir.
Matt Register: So talk to me a little bit about the IEC and what function they play for these independent contractors.
Gilbert Soliz: The function of the IEC is, we try to get qualified electricians out there in the field. So these contractors can use them and utilize the experience that they’ve learned through the IEC. And anyone that’s interested in becoming an electrician, can just come to our office and actually fill application without any experience. They come to our office, we help them pay their apprenticeship program or apprenticeship license. And get an application filled out and we send it out to our members. And at that point our members will notify them to come out and, and come to work for them. At that point they start working, if they’re good employees, they’re dependable. And at that point our contractor, who he’s working for, will say “We want to send you to school”. And they will actually come to school, the apprenticeship program and enter into it. And there’s a minimum that they start off, just to enter school with very little experience, you’re looking at $13.67 an hour minimum. And all are, all are instructors there, which we have about 30 instructor, are all master electricians. They’ve been in the trade for many years, they’re a product of the IEC apprenticeship program. They’re, you know, superintendents, master’s, Foreman’s, owners sharing their knowledge to these individuals that want to become successful and learn this trade. Because that’s one thing we do lack is the craftsmanship, it’s not there.
Matt Register: Well, I’ll tell you what, skilled, the lack of skilled employees in the labor force is a problem across many industries. The electrical industry has done a particularly good job of addressing this. Right?
Gilbert Soliz: Yes, it has.
Matt Register: And not only are you offering the training, you’re actually placing guys. So, so you’re out pulling people into the electrical industry and then placing them with your member companies.
Gilbert Soliz: That’s correct. We actually go out to high schools, kids their fixing to graduate, don’t really know what they want to do and really don’t have the money to be able to go to college. And we tell them here at the IEC, we’ll put you to work, your tuition is being paid why you’re attending school. So at the end of your four year apprenticeship program, that’s funded, part of the Department of Labor apprenticeship, apprenticeship program. When you graduate in four years, you have zero tuition, it is paid.
Matt Register: Sure.
Gilbert Soliz: You’re paying as you’re learning.
Jay Curry: So you’re getting the younger kids? What, what are the ages you’re after?
Gilbert Soliz: We’re, we are getting any of them that really come in. They could be 30 years old, tired of working…
Jay Curry: Yeah, it could be somebody that’s been out there and they’ve been digging ditches or building houses or what. And they decide they want a career. This is a good opportunity for them.
Gilbert Soliz: Correct. Exactly. They’re tired of, you know, working, you know, mechanic and it’s not getting them anywhere. Or sheet rockers or, you know, carpenters, all kinds and they just really want a trade that they know that it’s going to be, you know, the future for them. And we get them in there to come in and fill out an application. And they say that they really like it because it’s a fascinating. The electrical field is very fascinating. It’s constantly changing. I mean you really get your hands on it and that’s what they enjoy.
Matt Register: Well, how has technology changed that? Because technology is changing everything. The electrical industry, no doubt, you know, just from my limited experience seeing a lot of the switch gear and things that are out there now. How are you guys, what are you guys doing to ensure that you are staying up with changing technology?
Gilbert Soliz: We get, we also got, besides our members, we have an associate member, which is supply houses. And supply houses have the new technology. Which is dealing with the energy code. Which is dealing with control panels, dealing with sensors, dealing equipment and material out there that lowers the energy cost. So we, we get these associate member, these supply house members to come in and talk to our members. And, you know, we try to bring them, schedule classes with them.
Matt Register: Sure.
Gilbert Soliz: Because they’re the subject matter experts on the equipment and new technology coming out. We come in and they’ll, You know talk to these future electrician and get them. And then we also have, once you graduate, you graduate before, you want to come back and do a refresher course. We offer those also. You know, you kind of lost your skill a little bit, you want to, you want to, you know, update your skill. We offer those classes also.
Matt Register: Yeah, no doubt.
Jay Curry: Gilbert you also, so you’ll take a young person or anybody that’s interested in a career. You’ll help them become certified, if you would.
Gilbert Soliz: Correct.
Jay Curry: You can take them up to the master level. Right?
Gilbert Soliz: Yes, we can. There’s a certain process of years of experience that you have through the state of Texas. But we get them up first to get their journeyman license. Which requires four years, thousand hours through the Texas Department fo license and regulations. At that point they have to hold that license for two years as a journeyman and then they come back study and get to a master electrician.
Jay Curry: Okay.
Gilbert Soliz: Once they obtain that masters and then they can start their own company and we offer that, training for that also. We help them, you know, tax wise or, or insurance wise. We try to help them succeed, so they can get that company going.
Jay Curry: They’re making a living while they’re doing.
Gilbert Soliz: Yes.
Jay Curry: This in the evening. So you help them get employment. Right?
Gilbert Soliz: Correct.
Jay Curry: They’re working for one of your companies and then they’re doing this evening. What a program!
Gilbert Soliz: Yeah. It’s, it’s fascinating because what has happened is over the years, you always hear, we hear about, you know I went and took a technical class for six months and I’m certified. But at that point you have no field experience. You have the education but no field experience. We, you know, we change all that up, where you, you earn while you learn. So you learning in school in the evening, after work, because you have to make a living during the day. So you’re working your hours and in that, the evening time is when you actually attend school. And you actually come to school one day a week and it’s just like a college. You come and you know, we give you homework, we give you quizzes and you learn in the field.
Matt Register: Well, electricians are no different than any other small business. You know, you talk briefly about some of the business classes you guys offer. That’s, that’s interesting to me because and that’s in fact how we got introduced to you guys is going over and speaking at some of those those classes. Just like any other small business at some point you build a business and you are no longer, as the owner, in the same business as, you know, what you know. I mean, you know electrical work, you know how to do, how to do that. All the sudden you’re dealing with taxes and invoices and payroll and things that you’re not good at and that continuing education for the business owner is absolutely vital to establishing and growing, you know, solid businesses. Right?
Gilbert Soliz: Correct. Correct. Which we want them to succeed.
Matt Register: Sure.
Gilbert Soliz: Because that’s the plan, the plan that we have from the apprenticeship program, all the way up to the top. We want them to succeed and get their own company and be successful. That’s the bottom line that we all want them to do.
Matt Register: Well, the one thing about all of this that I find interesting… And we’ve been kind of paying attention to, you know, Mike Rowe the Dirty Jobs, you know guy talking about a lot of this vocational education that is disappearing from our schools.
Gilbert Soliz: Correct.
Matt Register: Right? And these are nice careers. This isn’t just a job. This is something…
Jay Curry: Oh no. Yeah!
Matt Register: That people can make a significant, a…
Jay Curry: Really nice living.
Gilbert Soliz: Yes.
Matt Register: Very nice living out of. And the trade associations, especially the IEC the independent Electrical Contractors Association is actually getting right. I think a lot of industries aren’t quite on this level.
Jay Curry: Right.
Matt Register: I think this is a very high level for a trade association. But absolutely remarkable, I think this is something that is a model for other industries to follow. Gilbert Soliz, Director of Education for the IEC, Independent Electrical Contractors, Texas Gulf Coast chapter, here out of Houston. Gilbert, what’s the easiest way for somebody to learn more about this association?
Gilbert Soliz: They can actually get on our Web site. We have a Web site, a IEC website and they can get on there, learn more information or they can call, call us directly. Our number is 713-869-1976.
Matt Register: Yes and the Web site, IECTXGC.org. Guys we’re going to have that linked directly from Texasbusinessradio.com. And it’s on there anyway as they are one of the trade associations that has partnered with Texas Business Radio. But we’ll have it right there, IECTXGC.org. The Independent Electrical Contractors, Texas Gulf Coast chapter. Great stuff, great education. I’m proud of you guys.
Jay Curry: Yeah, wonderful organization.
Matt Register: This is a model for other industries to use.
Jay Curry: Very much.
Gilbert Soliz: Thank you very much.
Jay Curry: Congratulations.
Matt Register: So we do have to take a break. We’re up on a hard break. We’re going to be back right after this with a whole lot more trade associations. This is something that, guys, join your trade association. If you’re in that business, you need to learn all you can. We’ll be back.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.