Telling One of the Many Stories of the NECA/IBEW Powering America Team

Oswego Creative has worked with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for more than 10 years. Their partnership – the NECA/IBEW Powering America Team – is a collaboration Oswego has had the pleasure of covering through the power of video for many years. Oswego Creative travels the country filming the men and women of the NECA/IBEW Powering America Team as they provide electrical solutions in varying forms. We utilize the Electric TV platform as our means to tell these stories.

Each story we tell on Electric TV is different – because no project that the NECA/IBEW Team works on is the same. In this case study, I would like to tell the behind the scenes story of a recent NECA/IBEW Powering America Team project we were able to cover in Phoenix, AZ.

In this age of rapid technological advancement, no one has yet perfected a properly working crystal ball. But when it comes to predicting the future for young people in search of a meaningful career, odds can at least be tilted in their favor if they get a chance to explore some options first hand.

Such is the case in Phoenix, AZ, where a group of middle school students from Madison Park Middle School is working through their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum) advisor and some local construction professionals got a chance to build doghouses.

The after school program is called “CACTUS,” short for Careers in Architecture Construction and Trades Uplifting Students.

These are not your father’s canine condos, however, the CACTUS students are designing. These boast solar panels on the roofs, which power temperature sensors inside, which triggers a fan, which helps keep Rover just a bit cooler when temperatures rise. Dogs never had it so good.

Real-life electrical apprentices from the IBEW Local 640 in Phoenix, working with the Arizona Chapter of NECA are working alongside the kids to provide them guidance.

“Our apprentices have taken on the role of teacher,” says Debra Margraf, Executive Director of Arizona NECA, one of the originators of the pilot program. “They are having a lot of fun teaching these young kids about safe work practices, why things work the way they do, and to see things work on the first try!”

The electrical industry is a multi-billion dollar business, and all projections show there is not only an immediate need for craftsmen right now, but there will also be tens of thousands of hands needed in the years ahead. That is the driving reason behind IBEW Local 640 and Arizona NECA getting behind the new program.

“Somewhere along the way, kids in high school stopped getting exposed to various trades. It became college or bust,” said Dean Wine, Business Manager for the Phoenix local. “We thought it would be a great idea to give interested kids a taste of our industry before they even got to high school, and the early returns have been great.”

Maggie Rodriquez, Assistant Principal at Madison Park Middle School, has liked the response as well. “It’s really meaningful for the students to meet professionals that work in these careers, and really get to see who these people are, what they do, and learn more about their careers so it could potentially be an offshoot for them when they grow up,” the educator said.

Working in teams of four or five, students not only get first-hand experience in the installation of a true electrical system, but they also get to stand back and see what they have actually accomplished when the job is complete.

The finished dog houses were auctioned off with proceeds going to fund next year’s program. It is a program that both Phoenix IBEW 640 and Arizona NECA want to grow to other schools, and to other potential apprentices of the future.

These kids will be out of high school before you know it.  And as long as our world needs power from traditional generating plants, to wind, to solar, there will be a need for people to fill these satisfying, well-paying, career-lasting jobs.

To see these kids in action, go to!