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Latin Labor Council, others seek skilled trade recruits at TPS Career Connect Expo


By La Prensa Staff


TOLEDO, January 16, 2019: As soon as a Toledo Public Schools student walked into the SeaGate Convention Centre, one of the first tables they could stop to get information belonged to the Latin Labor Council, with four friendly Latino faces ready to share their careers as electricians. The group gathered at the first-ever TPS Career Connect Expo, hoping to find some young Latinos ready to enter the skilled trades.


A committee within the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #8, the Latin Labor Council was formally established three years ago. Council members attend job fairs, career days, and give presentations at high schools—averaging one appearance per month. The group also volunteers to do community service projects for low-income homeowners and mentors TPS students.


“A lot of the baby boomers are retiring in the next four or five years and a lot of us are part of that group,” said Ricardo Jiménez, Latin Labor Council president. “We didn’t see many other minorities or Latinos getting into Local 8, so we decided to form a diverse organization. One of our main objectives is to go out and get the word out, provide information to those that don’t know anything about the skilled trades, especially the IBEW so they can pursue a career in the electrical industry.”


Other officers of IBEW Local #8 include: Victor Escobar (vice pres.), Raúl Jiménez (sgt. at arms), Scott Diefenbach (recording sec.), and Walter Cordero (sec.-treas.); also, LLC exec. officers Patricio Covarrubias, Jimmy Canales, José López, and André Montoya, with LLC alternates Justin Covarrubias and Jordan Ovalle.


The TPS Career Connect Expo held Jan. 15 and 16 focused on 1,600 eighth graders who have explored career options throughout the academic year, along with more than 300 high school seniors who have taken part in career tech education programs within the district. Nearly 200 Latino students were expected to be among those in attendance.


“What we’re trying to do ultimately is put the right kids in the right programs for the right reasons,” said José Rosales, a TPS career and technology education student liaison, who helped to organize the event—Mr. Rosales and Karla Spangler were the Expo co-chairs. In the photo is José Luna with students.


The Latin Labor Council first sought advice and counsel from Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) founder and president Baldemar Velásquez as members sought to form the group within the larger IBEW. With his help, the group pursued official sanctioning from the union and now works hand-in-glove with IBEW leadership and the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC), which offers three electrical apprenticeship programs at its Rossford campus: residential, commercial, and voice-data-video instruction.


“There were a lot of interested parties. The seventh and eighth graders, a lot of them don’t know exactly where they want to be in five years, so what you may need to do is fill them on what they may need to do class-wise to get into the skilled trades—a lot of math and some science in their academic background,” said Jiménez. “The juniors and seniors are the ones we’re mainly concerned with and that’s who we really try to get involved and get interested in filling out an application and get them into an apprenticeship program.”


The Latin Labor Council has appeared at both urban and rural high schools, including Waite, Woodward, Start, Rogers, Genoa, and Bowling Green, among others.


According to Jiménez, high school students can even join a “helper” program once they graduate and turn 18. That’s an opportunity to “earn while they learn” on the jobsite with a union electrical contractor, guided by a mentor electrician. The program gives a “hands-on” opportunity to test their interest in the electrical industry as a career—pretty much a paid job-shadowing opportunity.


“We’re trying to be as real as possible, telling them exactly how it is. More or less when I go to these job fairs, I tell them how I started out and what got me interested in getting into the electrical industry,” said Jiménez, who originally wanted to join his grandfather on the job. “Maybe they grasp what I’m saying. It’s there for anybody, but you’ve got to want it and be willing to go out and get it. We try to provide them those avenues and any help they need.”


There are ten officers within the Latino Labor Council, many of whom also serve in executive capacities within the larger IBEW. That means a letter of recommendation or a good word on behalf of a student carries some weight when it comes decision time for apprenticeships. But a potential apprentice must stay out of trouble and off controlled substances to have that future.


“We’re willing to mentor them and groom them, help them out and help get them into the program,” said Jiménez. “We make it clear we have a drug-free environment. We have to take an annual drug test, plus we have drug tests on just about every big job in Toledo. They have their own drug testing. You could end up taking five or six drug tests per year, plus random drug testing on the big jobs.”


The inability of many people to pass a drug test has been one of the biggest problems in workforce development across Northwest Ohio in recent years. That has kept many employers from being able to fill available jobs, forcing them to bring in contractors from outside the area or trying to hire available labor away from other employers. Jiménez estimates the current economy will give IBEW members “three or four years of available overtime” going forward, which means plenty of steady opportunity for those interested. The Latin Labor Council right now is working to prepare six or seven potential recruits.


“They’ve got to meet us halfway there. We’ll pull them along, but they’ve got to want it,” said Jimenez. “They’re not giving this away. You’ve got to want it, too. You’ve got to make yourself available and be there when we need you. You’ve got to come hear us out on what’s expected of you, the questions they’re going to ask you at the apprenticeship committee.”


Anyone who wants to learn more can find the Latino Labor Council through its Facebook page or call the JATC directly at 419.666.8088. The website for the JATC is www.tejatc.org.


There were plenty of other Latino faces on hand ready to guide students in the right direction, whether it was into the skilled trades, four-year college, an internship, or a summer job.


Mark Urrutia and María González stood next to a table for the Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC), which is housed at the University of Toledo-Scott Park campus. Urrutia and González stated they were ready to guide any student who had an idea for a side business or talk to them about careers as an entrepreneur.


Top TPS Latino administrators also were present at the expo, including Hispanic outreach coordinator José Luna and Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel president Emilio Ramírez, the union which represents the entire TPS administrative staff. Dr. Romules Durant is the TPS CEO/Superintendent and Thomas Dimitrew is the Senior Director of Career Technology for TPS.


Schools involved in the successful Expo included: Jones Leadership Academy of Business, Toledo Technology Academy (TTA), Aerospace & Natural Science Academy of Toledo (ANSAT), Waite HS, Woodward HS, Start HS, Bowsher HS, Rogers HS, and Scott HS.


Photo courtesy of José Luna.






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Revised: 01/22/19 13:31:05 -0800.




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