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Electricians union anticipates Northern Pass jobs

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 11. 2012 10:47PM



Although any Northern Pass construction jobs are more than a year away, a New England-based union is offering a program to train New Hampshire workers on the construction of high-voltage power lines.

Already, a $1.4 billion, 440-mile high-voltage transmission project is under way in Maine, creating strong demand for experienced linemen, said Chris Blair, membership development coordinator of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104.

'This presents a major career opportunity for New Hampshire residents,' Blair said in a release distributed this week.

The 1,600-member union plans to begin training sessions in September at its training facility in Barrington, Blair said. On-site training takes place over six weekends, but the total Northeastern Apprenticeship and Training program takes about 3 years to complete and involves study, training, examinations and apprenticeships.

Blair said trained linemen will construct the towers and install lines involved in Northern Pass, the $1.1 billion, 180-mile project proposed for New Hampshire.

Apprentices on the Maine Power Reliability project start at $21.60 an hour, according to wage rates available on local's website. Journeymen earn a base pay of $36 an hour.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said the IBEW's training program will prove vital to providing a skilled workforce needed in the eventual construction of the project.

It's expected to provide 1,500 construction jobs during peak construction periods.

Murray said Northern Pass wants to have as many local people working on the project as possible. It has yet to select a contractor or decide how construction contracts will be let out.

'We say good for them for thinking ahead and being prepared,' Murray said. He said construction on Northern Pass could begin in late 2013 at the earliest.

'They (unions) do offer an extremely reliable and skilled, local workforce,' Murray said.

He said Public Service of New Hampshire, whose parent company is a partner in Northern Pass, used skilled tradesmen for the $244 million upgrade to the Merrimack Station. It came in one year early, under budget and with no lost-time accidents.

Most of those skilled tradesmen were unionized, he said.

Blair said anyone is eligible for the IBEW training program. Earlier this year, a loan officer at a bank signed up after taking a mortgage application from an IBEW member, Blair said.

Applicants must pass an aptitude test and a climbing test.

'A lot of people say they're not afraid of heights, until they put a pair of hooks on their feet and try to climb a pole,' Blair said.

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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