Solar Spotlight

Future Energy Jobs Act

The Future Energy Jobs Act went into effect June 1, 2017. The IBEW is taking action by implementing solar training to prepare workers with jobs in the solar industry.

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — On a dark and cold evening Jan. 29, more than 130 people packed Warrenville-based IBEW Local 701to talk and learn about the sun.

More specifically, they came to educate themselves on the status of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), a piece of energy legislation that followed nearly two years of negotiations between energy companies, consumer advocates and environmental groups.

Its focus is energy efficiency, renewable energy and job training. It began June 1, 2017.

“We are in unique position with this Act to take advantage of its economic benefits,” said Tim Milburn, with the Northwest Cook County Group of the Illinois Sierra Club. The Sierra Club, along with PowerForward DuPage sponsored the event.

Future Energy Jobs Act

Industry experts believe renewable energy is one of the fastest emerging energy technology fields. The Future Energy Jobs Act will help stimulate job creation throughout Illinois and when it does, the IBEW will be ready with trained workers. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Jennifer Green-Lanchoney

Those advantages include requiring the state’s two biggest electric utilities — Commonwealth Edison and Ameren — to dramatically expand their energy efficiency programs and reduce electricity waste, lowering Illinois power bills by billions of dollars through 2030.

For workers, FEJA saves and created thousands of clean energy jobs.

Power Forward DuPage


Harry Ohde, executive director of Illinois IBEW Renewable Energy Fund, said he’s been waiting 20 years for solar, but it’s finally here. His job is to make sure the IBEW has a trained workforce to keep up with the demand of solar installation. With $30 million in funding to help with training, a plan is being implemented.

“These systems are made to last so they need to be installed properly,” Ohde said. “We need to have a workforce from Illinois to make sure people aren’t coming in from out-of-state to do these installations. We want an educated and qualified IBEW solar installer who will be employed by a union IBEW contractor.”

Future Energy Jobs Act

Chicago-based IBEW Local 134 has what its calling, a “traveling solar roadshow,” to promote renewable energy technologies throughout Illinois. Photo courtesy of IBEW Local 134

The $30 million in funding will be diverted among three job training programs: solar pipeline training, a craft apprentice program and a multi-cultural jobs program.

Ohde’s organization is in the process of developing a 40-hour renewable energy training curriculum, which will offer hands-on training and support.


This summer, the Alsip-based Renewable Energy Training Field will invite IBEW members to its IBEW/NECA Technical Institute for a Train the Trainer program. With the information learned at this program, IBEW members can return to their Locals and begin implementing the same program.

Future Energy Jobs Act

An engaged audience at Warrenville-based IBEW Local 701 consisted of decision makers who would install solar panels on their private businesses, public facilities or municipalities. Several residential home owners indicated they were planning to install solar panels in the near future. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Solar training programs also will be implemented in junior high schools, high schools, community colleges and low-income communities. Train the Trainer Training program.

Ohde was proud to announce that six high schools in diverse neighborhoods throughout Illinois will start a potential per-apprenticeship program, either this year or in 2019, to be worked out with local IBEW unions.

“We need young people for the types of jobs in this industry. These jobs aren’t going to be for an old guy like me, that’s for damn sure,” Ohde said to laughter.


Become the best electrical talent out there

DuPage JATC training center

Inside the DuPage JATC training center, students learn through classroom study and hands-on experience of motor and electronic fundamentals, industrial safety and digital fundamentals. Apprenticeship classes are recognized at College of DuPage and can be used towards an Electro-Mechanical Technology associates degree in Applied Science. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — Being an IBEW electrician is about having a viable option for a career, not simply having a job.

With projections of 1/3 of Warrenville’s IBEW Local 701 workforce to retire in the next 10 years, combined with an increased construction cycle for the Chicagloand area, IBEW union officials are looking to train the newest up-and-coming IBEW union workforce.

IBEW Local 701, 28600 Bella Vista Pkwy., is currently taking applications every Tuesday for placement into its apprenticeship program, but you have to act quick. The last day to enroll in the program, for placement next year, is Tuesday, Sept. 27. Accepted applicants will start in May 2017. There are two programs for applicants — inside wireman, and data/telecommunications technician. There is a 3-step process to apply for either.

First: Apply between 8 a.m. to noon; and 1 to 4 p.m. There is a $20 fee ($25 to apply for both programs). You have to be 18-years-old at time of selection; be a high school graduate or GED equivalent; have a C average or better in high school algebra; show proof of citizenship.

Second: Take an aptitude test in November, which consists of reading comprehension and algebra. You have to score four or better, out of a possible nine.

Third: Interview process, consisting of 15 minutes in front of a panel.

DuPage JATC Training Director Hank Zurawski said the inside wireman program is the most popular. This program is a 5-year program, consisting of 8,000 work hours and 900 classroom hours.

“Applicants will learn about the electrical distribution throughout industrial and commercial types of construction,” Zurawski explained.

DuPage JATC training center

Instructors are teaching renewable energy training so students can meet the demand for smart-grid applications or solar and wind for residential, municipal, commercial and industrial properties. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The data/telecommunications technician program is a 4-year program, consisting of 6,400 work hours and 720 classroom hours.

“Data technicians install voice and data networks, card access, security systems and camera systems,” Zurawski said.

There is an average of 10 to 12 students in the inside wireman program, and six students in the data technician program.

The advantage of apprenticeship programs is it allows students to learn in the work environment and get paid.

Zurawski made it very clear: an apprenticeship program is a 40-hour a week job.

“You’re going to go to work immediately, and you’re going to be paid for it. It’s required that you work 40 hours a week minimum, when work is available. You’re going to be given a competitive wage rate, and a respectable benefit package. You will contribute to three retirement savings account programs immediately,” he explained.



There is no tuition involved, however, there is a $450 initial fee, which covers the cost of tools each apprentice receives. Cost after that is $400 every year for textbooks.

“All we do here, is privately funded through the collective bargaining agreement. Our members and signatory contractors have chosen to find a way to get the financial resources to sustain our posture in the industry,” Zurawski said.

He has a $1.3 million training budget — money that doesn’t come from the government, or the taxpayers.

The IBEW JATC has partnered with College of DuPage to accept apprentice classes as college credit. After completion of the apprenticeship program, COD will transfer 47-50 credit hours towards an Electro-Mechanical Technology associates degree in Applied Science. In essence, the apprenticeship school classes are equivalent to COD’s program requirements. A student will then have to complete 18 to 22 general education credits to acquire the degree.

Learning about jobs for medical cannabis

Jim Smith, managing member of Silver Star Protection Group

Jim Smith, managing member of Silver Star Protection Group, discusses the strict regulations placed on the Illinois medical cannabis industry. He believes there are benefits to medical cannabis. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — With resumes in hand, several persons interested in employment in the medical cannabis field attended a job information session Oct. 3 in Warrenville at the IBEW Local 701 campus. The job information session was hosted by UFCW Local 881 and Healthway Services of West Illinois, which will be operating the dispensary, to be located in the 3700 block of Illinois Avenue in St. Charles.

UFCW Local 881 Legislative and Political Director Marina Faz-Huppert explained to participants that Local 881 has emerged as the forefront organization to unionize these potential cannabis workers. “We view our role in the industry as one that will build greater acceptance and understanding for responsible operators like Healthway Services of West of Illinois,” Faz-Huppert explained.

St. Charles dispensary owner Irina Zhukovsky is CEO of Healthway Services of West Illinois. Owning a home health care agency, many of her patients asked her about medical cannabis. After doing extensive research, she felt opening a dispensary was the right way to go. The dispensary is set for an inspection Nov. 2, and will possibly open in December.

Irina Zhukovsky is CEO of Healthway Services of West Illinois

St. Charles medical cannabis dispensary owner Irina Zhukovsky is CEO of Healthway Services of West Illinois. There will be an inspection of her facility Nov. 2, with a possible December opening date. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Besides gaining information on employment as a dispensary consultant, guests also were given information on available security jobs.

Jim Smith, managing member of Silver Star Protection Group, discussed the strict regulations placed on the Illinois medical cannabis industry. “We think the rules and the regulations in place is going to make this a safe industry in Illinois,” he said.

As a former U.S. Marshals Service inspector, Smith said not only is he an advocate for security his organization is going to provide, he’s also an advocate for the industry. “As a medicinal form of medicine, I’m all for it. We think there’s benefits to it. We’re out here to educate folks to get people to understand that this isn’t something to be afraid of. This is something that is going to help people.”

Patients will be fingerprinted and undergo a background check. They also must register with one dispensary, which can be changed, and are limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days.

Scabby the Rat sighting

Twin Peaks Scabby 2015

July 23, 2015 – Union members handbill July 17 to customers who were patronizing Twin Peaks restaurant in Warrenville. From left, Laborers Local 68 Vice President/Business Agent Michael J. Van Wagner, Operating Engineers Local 150 Task Force/Business Representative Mike Drew and Laborers Local 68 Organizer Bryan Hacker. At the same time, Carpenter’s Local 558 was bannering the Twin Peaks restaurant under construction in Oakbrook Terrace. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

October 2014

Oct., 2014

2014 November

Nov., 2014

In October 2014, far left, IBEW Local 701 union members and Scabby the Rat protested Dave’s Electric working at Twin Peaks in Warrenville for violating area standards. In November 2014, left, members of Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Local 1889 were on strike for area standards against DBI Dunaway Brothers.


Unions making things better for the future

Scabby the Rat

A new restaurant, Twin Peaks, is coming to Warrenville, but it’s starting to be built mostly with out-of-state and non-signatory contractors. Members of IBEW Local 701 brought Scabby the Rat to the job site to alert other trades. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — The driver of a pick-up truck said it best as he drove past protesting union members Oct. 22 and a Scabby the Rat inflatable which was put up outside a construction site.

“Lousy rats!” the driver yelled from his truck.

Twin Peaks, a new restaurant is coming to Warrenville, but it’s starting to be built mostly with out-of-state and non-signatory contractors. It’s housed in the old Stir Crazy restaurant at Diehl and Winfield roads.

Members from IBEW Local 701 were protesting Dave’s Electric for violating area standards.

“We’ll be out here as we need to be,” said IBEW Local 701 Business Representative/Membership Development Anthony Giunti.

He explained without Responsible Bidder language at the village or city level, it’s going to be a struggle for union members to work on projects.

“We’d love to see every village in DuPage County with a Responsible Bidder language, because it would cut down on this,” indicating the Scabby the Rat presence.

Scabby the Rat

Members of IBEW Local 701 were protesting Dave’s Electric Oct. 22 in Warrenville for violating area standards on the construction of a new Twin Peaks restaurant on Diehl and Winfield roads. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

But it would also protect the public and cost less money in the long run through the trained union members working on the project.
DuPage County Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee IBEW Local 701 Training Director Henry Zurawski said his apprentices are worth it.
“We have five years of training; 8,000 hours. I have a $1.4 million annual training budget, which is all funded from membership — not taxpayer money,” Zurawski explained.

The construction is currently being done with non-union electrical. But that’s not to say things couldn’t change, and that what Giunti and others are hoping.

Several other Twin Peaks are scheduled to go up. If opening the lines of communication with general contractors now helps with future jobs, then the protest will be worth it.

“After you do something like this, you’d be surprised to find that the next ones are good. And that’s what we’re shooting for,” said IBEW Local 701 Business Representative/Membership Development Bob Perreault.

Even if signatory electricians don’t get in on the job, they are hoping others do.

“We might get the security, fire alarms or the cameras — we still have a shot at those,” Giunti explained.