Tena Dunson holds a donated bag of tools and supplies as part of Saturday’s graduation for an electrical program. Dexter McGhee, the instructor and owner of McGhee Electric LLC in Trotwood, helped pass out the certificates. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton program helps diverse group learn electrical trade

The skilled construction trades lack racial and gender diversity, and most electricians are white men.

But a group that on Saturday graduated from an electrical training program bucked the trend: It was half female and all black.

The 10-week program sought to give under-served community members free access to skills training they otherwise might not be able to afford or feel comfortable spending the money on, supporters said.

The program, through the Dayton Urban Ministry Center & Otterbein Community Center, sought to expose participants to a potential career path in what organizers say is a high-demand field.

“They do need trained people — electricians — it’s a dying breed, and we need more people getting training to do what we do,” said Dexter McGhee, who taught the sessions and who owns McGhee Electric LLC in Trotwood.

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Dayton Urban Ministry Center & Otterbein Community Center for 10 weeks hosted a training on Saturday mornings for about a dozen participants. More than 30 people signed up for the program, and about a dozen completed the program.

McGhee, the instructor, did some work for the center, and after talking with leadership, he volunteered his time to help teach people the fundamentals in electrical work.

McGhee said the area served by the ministry and Otterbein center is disadvantaged, and he wanted to give back.

“I said I’ll train for free — if people dedicated themselves to the program, I’ll dedicate to training them,” he said.

McGhee said he wanted to give people an opportunity to learn more about the job and work he loves.

He said his field isn’t for everyone — some people who signed up didn’t last long and dropped out. But he said nearly all of the program graduates indicated they wanted more advanced training.

About five graduates have helped McGhee on work sites. He said some graduates seem passionate about the work.

There’s a lot of work in the community for electricians, McGhee said.

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Electrician employment was projected to increase about 9 percent between 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are almost 667,000 people employed as electricians nationwide, including about 24,200 in Ohio.

Only about 2 percent of electricians are women, and 83 percent of electricians are white, Data USA indicates.

Many program participants had never been exposed to the trades through family members, which is how a lot of people get into the work, McGhee said.

Harold Ray, 51, who lives in West Dayton, said he took the training along with his 24-year-old daughter, Asia Ray, because he is an entrepreneur and wanted to expand his skill-set.

Ray said what he learned will come in handy at home, and also he can now help out friends and others with small projects.

“With confidence I can do a service box on the back, do the service line to your fuse box, outlets, ceiling fans — any minor electric work, I can do that now,” he said.

Tena Dunson also took the training with business in mind.

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Dunson said she owns a company that is acquiring and renovating multiple homes in the Westwood neighborhood to rent out.

She said the program gave her the skills to change outlets and switches on her own.

“It’s going to help me because now I can do the work I was paying someone to do,” she said.

Most people who graduated the program attended every session, including one man who took the bus to get to there and who for a while had an ankle monitor.

In addition to certificates, program grads also received a free handyman bag with donated tools and supplies.

McGhee is going to host another program in September.

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