Real-World Training Prepares U.S. Veteran for Career in the Elevator Trade

During a recent trip to Chicago, Illinois, ElevatorInfo had the chance to sit down and talk with Nate Hefner, a U.S. Veteran working as an elevator mechanic in Chicago.

Nate did not always plan for a career in the elevator trade; in fact, his degree is in Architecture. After transitioning out of active duty as a member of the Army National Guard, he knew that he never wanted a job where he would be forced to sit behind a computer or work in an office all day. A close friend and fellow Veteran who is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 2 in Chicago suggested Nate check out the elevator trade. Right away, Nate knew that it would be a good fit.

“My favorite part of my job is actually working with my hands,” Nate explained. “That’s why I really like new construction… it’s more hands-on – measuring, beating things with a hammer, and actually building something that was not there when you got to the job a couple of weeks before.”

When asked about what makes him good at his job, Nate was quick to give a shout-out to the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). While other elevator training programs in the industry are offered via correspondence course, NEIEP is a four-plus year USDOL-Registered Apprenticeship, held to rigorous standards. Weekly classroom training that incorporates hands-on practical labs and virtual simulations administered by some of the best-trained instructors in the industry are what sets the IUEC’s program apart from the rest. “Once you graduate (from) the NEIEP program and you take that (Mechanic Exam) test, you know you can start day one of building that elevator without having somebody tell you how,” said Nate. “NEIEP has taught you how to build that elevator safely.”

From foundational classes covering the basics of working in the elevator trade to advanced training modules on troubleshooting the complex systems elevator constructors encounter on the job daily, NEIEP provides IUEC members with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs thoroughly, efficiently, and above all, safely. In a field with as many potential hazards as this one, safety must be a central component of any training program. This is why the NEIEP apprenticeship begins with a safety course for probationary members, and has included in its required apprenticeship training certifications in OSHA 10, Scaffold and Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Competent Person Training for Framed Scaffolds, Scaffold and Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Training Program for Suspended Scaffolds, American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED, and Certified Signal Person and Rigger (Level 1), an industry-specific ANSI/ANAB accredited certification in rigging and signaling.

The NEIEP apprenticeship curriculum covers not only the individual steps involved in performing a task but guides students through an in-depth exploration of electrical and mechanical theory and application. Once an apprentice successfully completes the eight-semester program, logs 8,000 hours of work under the supervision of an experienced mechanic, and passes the capstone validated Mechanic Exam, they have access to more than 40 online and classroom-based continuing education courses. What’s more, courses completed during the NEIEP apprenticeship have been recognized as equivalent to college-level learning by a number of accredited colleges and universities who give college transfer credit to NEIEP graduates who want to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees in fields such as Construction Management, Project Management, Applied Sciences, Engineering Technology, Education, and more. This advanced training benefits every elevator constructor in the IUEC along with their colleagues, employers, building owners, and the riding public.

While Nate came into the elevator trade through the standard recruitment process, the IUEC also supports Veterans as they transition to a career in the elevator industry through a partnership with the national nonprofit organization Helmets to Hardhats. Helmets to Hardhats connects military service members with training and education programs in the building trades, providing veterans with career opportunities through federally-registered apprenticeship programs like the one offered by NEIEP. Through Helmets to Hardhats, IUEC Locals across the United States offer Veterans priority status during Apprenticeship recruitment.

In the video, Nate highlighted how the safety-focused, comprehensive classroom courses he completed during his NEIEP Apprenticeship prepared him to do his job well, keeping his customers and his company satisfied. His main point? That the practical, hands-on learning he participated in in the classroom prepared him with the skills he needed to challenge the demands of his work in the field. “You have to pay attention to what you’re learning because it applies to the real world,” he said.