STEUBENVILLE — Thanks to a unique partnership between a local union and Eastern Gateway Community College, 11 students finished a five-year apprenticeship program and earned an associate degree at the same time.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union #246 and the Steubenville Division of the National Electrical Contractors Association celebrated the apprentices’ graduation with a dinner and ceremony on May 18, 2019.

The celebration marks the completion of more than 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, accompanied by 1,000 hours of classroom training during the last five years. This is the ninth group of inside wiremen to complete the training and also receive an associate degree of Technical Studies in Electrical Trades Technology.

Christina Wanat, M.Ed., interim vice president of student affairs, said Eastern Gateway accepts IBEW Local Union #246 apprentices nearly every year. Under EGCC's program, it is mandatory for apprentices to earn their associate degree. This, in turn, opens up more opportunities for continuing education.

Students in the five-year program are all union electricians and only a certain number of participants are accepted, said Christy Hardwick, an administrative assistant at IBEW #246.

The program is approved through the state of Ohio. Students attend night classes at the IBEW training center and receive up to 47 credits through EGCC toward their associate degree.

Thanks to the program, participants are able to move to journeyman status, obtain their associate degree, do their apprenticeships, receive on-the job training, and go through multiple certification processes all at the same time.

Wanat said, "Along with their IBEW training, it prepares them for the workforce and, if they wanted to continue on with their education, they would already have an associate degree so they can go on to earn their bachelor's degree."

After they successfully complete the program, students can decide on their own if they want to continue on to earn a bachelor's or master's degree.

The IBEW Local Union #246 includes all of Jefferson, Columbiana and Harrison counties in Ohio; parts of Carroll County, Ohio; and all of Brooke and Hancock counties in West Virginia. The graduating apprentices received certificates of completion from the U.S. Department of Labor and Electrical Training Alliance. State Rep. Jack Cera also presented certificates to the apprentices.