Miller grew up in Chicago and was educated in the city’s
schools, so he is familiar with the environment.
“At Dunbar, these kids may come from a disadvantaged or
poor background,” he said. “They see me, a black electrician.
I’m someone who looks like them with relatable circumstances,
and I have this successful career. That, itself, is influential and
opens their minds to the possibility of profession and avenues
to success. I’m also an example of someone who switched
careers to become an electrician.”
Miller previously worked in video production at a big adver-
tising agency. He was drawn to the mobility of an electrical
career and the opportunity to grow, which he shares with his
students in Chicago Builds.
Donahue said the hands-on element of the classes makes
electrical work come alive for the students.
“They see results based on what the project involves, such as
wiring a light fixture,” he said. “That engages them and sparks
interest. … The expectation isn’t that students come out of the
Dunbar program as electricians. Rather, they are exposed to the
concepts and explore them. I would add, students who complete
the two-year Dunbar program will have a leg up in knowledge
and experience if they enter our apprenticeship program.”
IBEW Local No. 134/NECA Chicago also has developed
next-step exposure for Dunbar graduates. Each is guaranteed
a spot with the Market Expansion Program. Meeting three
consecutive Saturdays, participants brush up on math skills,
receive additional tool-use instruction, and safety training.
Next is the opportunity to be on a job site for up to a year and
get paid an hourly rate assisting journeyman and apprentices.
A percentage of Dunbar program graduates may become
tomorrow’s apprentices. It’s already happening through an
electrical trade program at Simeon Career Academy High
School that predates Chicago Builds.
“Parents and others are now recognizing the value of a
trade education as one more option,” Donahue said. “We’ve
even gotten a number of guidance counselors on board. We
share information on starting wage, wage growth, career
advancement and mobility, and training. They are liking what
“By exposing high school students to trade career options,
you sense that those who become interested will really want to
do it. For contractors, they may end up with a very committed
future employee,” he added.
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
Local No. 134 developed the electric shop at Dunbar Career Academy
High School, the first school participating in the Chicago Builds
program. IBEW/NECA provided the instructor and a curriculum.
Introducing Generation Z
Universum, a global big data firm headquartered in
Stockholm, advises employers on how “to attract and
retain talent that fits their culture and purpose.” Jonna
Sjövall serves Universum’s Americas market and has
extensively researched Generation Z (ages 15–20).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this generation
makes up more than a quarter of America’s population.
What do we know about Gen Z? Through extensive
global surveys, Sjövall found a number of things.
This future workforce appears to be more optimistic
than millennials. They want to make something out
of themselves but question a university path. Highly
motivated, Gen Z wants to make its mark and see where
technology will take the world.
“Gen Z is all about fitting in, wanting their efforts to
lead to something important, something bigger,” Sjövall
said. “Purpose for them is key, not only in terms of overall
societal impact but having a direct bottom-line effect for
their employer. They also like a culture of innovation.”
“They are the Snapchat generation nimbly
navigating social media for instant access to different
sources of information,” Sjövall said. “They are also
practical learners (on-the-job, You Tube tutorials,
Get ready. That next generation is gearing up. —J.G.