Labor Sec. Perez Praises Building Trades Union Training Program, Partnerships

 ROSSFORD, Ohio (PAI)–While maintaining a smile, it was pretty clear U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was a bit out of his comfort zone when he strapped on a hardhat and harness and participated in a rescue safety exercise.


Perez accepted the offer to join the class exercise during a tour of the Toledo Electrical JATC in Rossford on July 29.  After donning safety gear and strapping the harness over his shirt and tie, Perez made a brief 6-foot climb and was then “rescued” and lowered back to the floor.


The hands-on participation highlighted of a full day of activities around Toledo for Perez, who was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.


Perez and Duncan came to Toledo, “to see first-hand model programs and partnerships that are equipping Americans with the knowledge, skills and industry-relevant education they need to get on the pathway to a successful career,” according to a prepared statement.


During a brief lunch, two Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 8 apprentices sat next to

Perez and Duncan.  Second-year apprentice Jason Ryan answered a number of questions


Perez posed while they ate.


“He wanted to know about our facility and our career path,” Ryan said.  “He really wanted to hear our perspective and about the way things work.”


Ryan and fellow second-year apprentice Cory Artz said they were honored to be selected to participate in the event, but the pair also admitted it was a bit of a whirlwind since they were only given notice the day before.


Besides the lunch and tour of the 45,000 square-foot training facility, the two Obama cabinet members visited a local technology magnet school and nearby Owens Community College.


Owens is part of the new Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, a new Obama administration plan to boost community college graduation rates.  The program lets apprentices receive credit for both on-the-job training and classroom learning that can be applied toward an associate or bachelor degree.


Perez described the relationship between the area labor trades and the community college as a “remarkable partnership.”   He added “these people are punching their ticket to the middle class.  There’s a huge demand for what they are doing.  This is a win for everyone.”

Before joining the safety rescue exercise, the two cabinet members watched journeymen splice fiber-optic cable, and visited a class of apprentices learning wind turbine maintenance and repair.


The large wind turbine behind the JATC is one reason why it is considered a state-of-the art facility.  Besides providing hands-on training opportunities, the wind turbine also generates a portion of the electricity used by the training facility.


“We’ve got business, we’ve got labor unions, we’ve got higher education here together making sure that employers that want to grow their businesses have the skilled work force to compete,” Perez said at the end of the tour.