> FOCUS CHANGING THE VOLTAGE GAME
this work as circuits operating at 50 volts and less. The contractor should know the correct terminology to use based on the
equipment that they are installing or maintaining.”
Curriculum for low-voltage work has ramped up and expanded
through the Electrical Training ALLIANCE (formerly NJATC),
the joint curriculum and training development effort by the
National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) based
in Bowie, Md. The growth in training materials reflects the
world ECs increasingly face.
Terry C. Coleman, director for the Electrical Training ALLIANCE, helped craft much of the course work found under
the Telecommunications Curriculum Development Training
Program. The inclusion of low voltage in apprentice and journeyman training, and available to any EC, began in 1992 when
Coleman joined the alliance as a training director.
“It started with NECA’s District 9 [California, Nevada, Ore-
gon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii and the northern portion of
Idaho] wanting a low-voltage apprenticeship program,” Cole-
man said. “By 1995, Cat 5 cabling emerged which we worked
into our apprenticeship training. In 2000, I started work on
modernizing our treatment of structured cabling. Today, it
expands it into the special systems that were once the sole
purview of the traditional low-voltage contractor.”
Coleman called today’s curriculum a form of cross-training.
Topics addressed include copper and fiber installations, con-
trols, networks and structured cabling, to name a few. There is
a focus on understanding local area networks (LAN) and PoE.
“We just completed a book on LAN covering aspects of IT,
surveillance video, security access and control,” Coleman said.
“We also touch on industrial controls (process and motors)
which have been networked for years. ECs in this sector may
not be aware they are already doing the foundational work for
low-voltage network control in the industrial setting. Now that
many markets are seeing the value of networking installs, that’s
where we are heading. It’s a co-mingling of traditional electric
work and the IT world.
“LED is, in part, leading us in. It’s a disruptive technology
amenable to both high- and low-voltage wiring and wireless
technology. Digital lighting is changing the landscape of all of
our work and leads to Io T and IIOT [industrial Io T]. If raceway
isn’t necessary for your low-voltage installation, adapt and give
the customer what they need through Cat 5 or Cat 6. These
sorts of installations are coming,” he said.
Myers said he has seen a reduction in the use of raceways,
citing manufacturers who provide metal-clad cable that combine power and low-voltage control circuits.
Each local NECA/IBEW Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee decides how much low-voltage training to offer
based on their market.
Manufacturer assistance also remains an important adjunct
to low-voltage instruction. For Pacific Electrical Contractors,
“It won’t be less electrical work but different, likely one of
less hard-wiring and more modules, sensors, wireless configurations, and multidata cables,” he said. “Structured wiring is
now ubiquitous. Will every EC be a networking guy? No, but
you could conceivably see a quarter of your workforce trained
at one level or another. You may need technicians to install
low-voltage systems. Maybe start up, commission and manage
them. Why give up any of this work?”
GAVI N, LEED Green Associate, is the owner of Gavo
Communications, a sustainability-focused marketing services firm
serving the energy and construction industries. He can be reached
firstname.lastname@example.org. I M
Data centers are a growth opportunity for ECs that
possess both high- and low-voltage expertise.