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It started with a conversation about prices on Romex. It ended with CES Alexandria donating pallets full of wire, tools, and material free of charge to Edison Academy, a vocational program at Thomas Edison High School.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, CES Alexandria Branch Manager Johnathan Rodgers called everyone he knew to help.  

“I know a lot of people in the industry, so I called on as many people as I could,” Rodgers said. “I reached out to tool vendors and called up some customers who’ve worked with us for years.”

O.T. Hall & Son was one of those vendors. They had actually just moved facilities, and they told Rodgers they had some material they could donate to the academy.

But when the driver at CES Alexandria went to pick up the donation, it wasn’t just “some material.” There was a mountain of it — more than enough to give the students at Edison Academy plenty of real, hands-on training.

Dan Roser, the outside sales rep at O.T. Hall & Son, was just glad it didn’t go to waste.

“We have a really good relationship with City Electric Supply, so when Johnathan asked us if we wanted to donate, we were happy to,” Roser said. “We’re just happy that this product can be used. This is the right thing to do with extra materials, and it only benefits the young learners today and in the future.”

Teaching the Next Generation

Speaking of the young learners at Edison Academy, one student in particular was excited to see what they could get their hands on. Turns out, there was a lot of new material they’d never even seen before.  

“This is the first year we got the chance to work on commercial applications,” the student said. “Looking at the materials we got, there are a lot of new things to try out on the commercial side of the program, like data connection sets, which is really interesting because we haven’t had the chance to learn with those yet.”

Joseph Wolfe, the electrical construction and engineering instructor at Thomas Edison High School, couldn’t believe it either.

“A lot of the material we have here is really going to help us to train these students to the level that the industry needs for them to be successful right out of the gate,” he said. “We try to train according to the industry standards that are influenced by the trades that are out in the real world right now.”

The best part is that this donation could not have come at a better time. Wolfe and his students just started digging into commercial applications, and now they have all the commercial tools and material they need to learn it the right way.

“These students are going to get a lot of use out of this,” Wolfe said. “Now, they’ll be able to enter the field and enter the trade industry even faster.”

Supporting Trade Schools

This donation was clearly important to the students and Edison Academy — but it was also important to Rodgers. When he was in high school in Maryland, many of his friends started their careers with the help of vocational program. A vocational program that doesn’t exist anymore.

“It’s the same thing that always happens to vocational programs,” Rodgers said. “They lost it because they didn’t have the budget for the material. Coming from a school like that and being in the industry like I’ve been, you want to build it back up and give back.”

Edison Academy and Wolfe are approaching the vocational shortage from all angles, providing students with a path into either electrical construction or electrical engineering.

“We’re a job-training program, so we’re here to support students to try and help them obtain a career path,” he said. “It’s up to them if they want to pursue college or a trade in the field. We provide that career path for both avenues for students to decide which way they want to go.”

And while the vocational programs help the students, it’s important for local suppliers to help the programs.

“These programs show students that there are alternative paths to success,” Rodgers said. “For City Electric Supply to be a part of their growth and their knowledge is really important, because we have a direct impact on making sure these students are getting what they need to be successful.”

Your Friendly Local Supplier

By this time next year, you might actually see Rodgers and the CES Alexandria branch at the Edison Academy itself, showing students new products and talking about all the ways their local supplier is here to help.

“We’re invited to come speak to the school next year along with manufacturers and vendors,” Rodgers said. “We can’t wait to help them get their hands on new products and promote CES to a new generation of electricians.”

And they also get to put a friendly face to a side of the industry these students haven’t even seen yet. A face Rodgers hopes other CES branches begin to put out there, too.

“Reach out to your local high schools and vocational schools,” he said. “Lots of schools don’t have the budget, so offer donations or work on pricing to get them what they need. The students count on it.”

While it started with a conversation about Romex prices, it might just end with CES Alexandria being the supplier young electricians can count on in the future.

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