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Innovative Solutions and Collaboration are Key to Solving the Labor Shortage Says Bellcock

INTREN is proud to announce that Mike Bellcock has been hired as a Senior Labor and Workforce Strategist, effective immediately.

"With the country's present shortage of skilled labor, Mike's creative thinking and innovation will lead us to solve this issue for our customers," said Matthew Turk, INTREN's Executive Vice President of Customer Solutions & Business Development. "With INTREN now in eleven states, this will also enable us to integrate a consistent approach coast-to-coast."

For the past 16 years, Bellcock has been a Business Agent for IBEW Local 2150 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, where he was able to bring a fresh and innovative approach to attracting skilled labor and creating a groundswell of candidates for entry-level positions. He is also a 30-year member of the IBEW.

"The key to success is always a collaborative approach between the union, contractor and utility, where we all strive to provide forward-thinking solutions for the customer's challenges," said Bellcock.

For example, Bellcock and his team were tasked with creating a pool of entry-level workers for their utility's Smart Meter installation program that focused on minorities and women. Together, with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, they created a boot-camp style, 40-hour training where graduating students were awarded a special-skills certificate that bumped them up on the referral list. 

"The outcome of that collaboration resulted in over 50% of all Smart Meter installers being a minority or female," said Bellcock. "We knew the program was especially successful when many of those hires began to filter up into the URD (Underground Residential Distribution) program and lineman apprenticeship training."

According to Bellcock, with the current shortage, it also takes compromise from the union and their members when looking at long-term solutions.

At one time, Wisconsin URD workers were paid the Journeymen Linemen wage and benefit package, but it was actually IBEW equipment operators and groundman performing the work and the utility questioned why they were paying the higher rates. In order to maintain the work on the property and prevent the customer from utilizing the nonunion or non-IBEW contractors, Local 2150 created a URD Installer classification of union member. With an associated one-year training program and slightly reduced wages, it more than tripled the number of workers over time, while increasing customer satisfaction with the work.

"If you don't have innovative ideas from the contractor or the union and are not willing to take risks or collaboration, you will get stuck, said Bellcock. Forward-thinking individuals and organizations, no matter how great the challenge can always alleviate this."

" I am excited that Mike has joined our team to help us find innovative solutions to this industry challenge. Working with our customers, unions, workforce organizations and various schools and colleges throughout the country, we plan to outline both short - and long-term workforce strategies," added INTREN CEO Kelly Tomblin. "INTREN is committed to fully servicing our customers' needs and to do that we will focus on making sure we have the right people to serve them and the industry for the years to come."