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Electricians train for sustainable public works jobs at Brooklyn workshop

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NEW YORK — As weather becomes more severe, experts say there’s a greater need to invest in green job training. 

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows billions of dollars in annual costs associated with damages form climate disaster events.

To help, a workshop in Brooklyn is training electricians for a brighter future.

Niea Robinson works during the day and takes classes in the evening.

Robinson, a fourth-year apprentice in the Building Trades Educational Fund run by Local 363, is already employed as an electrician. This opportunity allows her to earn while she learns. 

“I thought of other careers and I wanted something challenging, so I chose electric. And I’ll be breaking a lot of, you know, generational curses in my family,” she said. 

“You get to grow into a very, very high demand trade and build skills that will carry you for the rest of your life,” said Paul Iaccarino, the fund’s director. 

The apprentices all have union jobs with Local 363. Funding for the program comes from their employer as part of their benefits package, meaning it’s free of charge to the students. 

Nathaniel Drew, another fourth-year student, said getting on this path allows him to plan for his future.

“You could be an electrician as long as you want, and not a lot of jobs have that longevity,” he said. 

Operating out of Transit Tech Career and Technical Education High School in Cypress Hills, the fund emphasizes hands-on learning in spaces full of sample junction boxes and even model subway cars. Students also get OSHA certifications and other safety training. 

Many apprentices end up working for companies that are contracted by the MTA to work in subway tunnels, rail yards, city infrastructure and other public works. Leaders say many of the contracted projects deal with climate resiliency and sustainability. 

For example, Robinson just finished a job at the Coney Island rail yard, elevating electrical equipment that was damaged during Superstorm Sandy to prevent future issues when he next big storm hits. 

“We’re in a world that’s ever-changing, and it’s very important to be up on the latest and be ahead of the curve,” said Iaccarino.

After five years, graduates become qualified journeypersons recognized by the New York State Department of Labor. 

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