Atlanta-area sheet metal workers seek qualified apprentices

Upcoming large projects to create jobs for local welders, HVAC fabricators

FAIRFAX, Va. – The Atlanta area is in the middle of a drought, and it has nothing to do with this season’s snowfall. With major construction projects on the horizon – such as the new Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons stadiums, the renovation of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Vogtle nuclear power plant – Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 85 is seeking qualified apprentices.

“We want somebody who is looking for a career, not just a job,” said Alan Still, apprentice coordinator at Local No. 85’s training center. “We want those who want to get in there and go to work. They’re not afraid of hard work.”

The International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, provides curriculum for four- or five-year programs at 160 training centers across the country. Apprentices accepted into the program graduate with zero tuition debt.

The jobs highest in demand are welders, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) fabricators and installers. Once buildings are complete, testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) specialists will be needed to get the HVAC systems up and running at efficient levels.

Applicants must have a high school diploma, or equivalent, and pass an entrance exam. For some of the federally funded job sites, such as Vogtle, apprentices will be required to go through a federal background check before being permitted to work.

“We want top-notch people,” Still said. “Our industry can’t afford to take just anybody. We need someone who is going to produce.”

Due to the influx of work scheduled to hit the Atlanta area in the next year or so, Local No. 85 is adding an apprenticeship class to the 2014 roster in addition to the two previously scheduled as well as recruiting qualified applicants.

“When I joined the apprenticeship, I looked at it as a great opportunity. I did the best job I could and because of that, I’m where I am today,” Still said. “We need applicants like that.”

Currently, 40 applicants will be accepted into two apprenticeship classes in August. An additional class of 22 apprentices began training in February. To plan for the future work at the Vogtle project, Local No. 85 has leased a 5,200-square-foot building near the job site in Augusta. The building will house a welding school, fabrication and lagging shop and TAB lab.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at the 160 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).  

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

*Posted originally on eyeonsheetmetal.wordpress.com.

Sheet metal apprenticeship an accredited, honorable education path

Accepted students earn as they learn, graduate four-, five-year programs debt free

FAIRFAX, Va. – The International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, will be an exhibitor at the National School Board Association show in New Orleans Saturday, April 5. This is the ITI’s second year taking part in the show. Representatives will be talking with school board members at booth No. 1109.

Higher education opportunities don’t need to start and stop with colleges and universities. Many students want a career – want an education beyond high school – but either can’t afford tuition or aren’t suited for a classroom or college setting. Those students aren’t lost.

The ITI provides an accredited, challenging four- or five-year curriculum to 153 training centers in the United States and Canada. Students learn about HVAC design, fabrication and installation; testing, adjusting and balancing of air flow in buildings, including fire life safety; architectural sheet metal, sign design and fabrication, welding and industrial sheet metal and building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design, among others.

Apprentices go to school but also learn on the job site, where they are paid to hone their craft. Because training is paid for by the sheet metal general membership in each area, apprentices go to school on the equivalent of a full-ride scholarship, allowing them to graduate from the program with zero college debt.

“We talk about creating millions of shovel-ready jobs for a society that doesn’t really encourage people to pick up a shovel,” said Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” when he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “People are surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage, but they shouldn’t be. We’ve all but guaranteed it.”

Applicants must have a high school diploma, or equivalent, and in many circumstances, pass an entrance exam. Each applicant is evaluated and finalists are fully interviewed and vetted before being accepted into the program.

Sheet metal work isn’t just for men. Women have found the career to fit their needs as well.

“It would be nice if women knew it was an option – and a lucrative option,” said Liz Fong, apprentice at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 66’s training center in Washington. “We can do it. It’s not about being super strong. It’s about working smart. We all – men and women – have strengths and weaknesses. Heavy lifting is just a small portion of what we do as sheet metal workers.”

Apprentices have been training since the union was formed in 1888. Over the last 125 years, members have helped to create some of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks such as the St. Louis Arch, the Time’s Square New Year’s Ball and many professional football and baseball stadiums across the country.

Sheet metal work isn’t just a career. It can be a legacy. Generations of sheet metal workers have made lives and supported families through sheet metal work.

“I’m proud of it. It’s my heritage, my family,” said John E. Williams, a third-generation sheet metal worker. “I’m proud to be a part of the union. The Williams family has always been good sheet metal workers.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at the 153 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).  

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

BIMmersion course geared to educate the whole employee

Classes from word processing, theory to AutoCAD, Revit offered in six-week course

FAIRFAX, Va. – It’s not often people ask to be told when they are wrong about something, even though it’s necessary. Michael Keane, director of building information modeling technologies for the International Training Institute (ITI), did just that when he went to large contractors who regularly participate in Building Information Modeling (BIM) and asked them what training, information or support the ITI was missing.

The ITI, the education arm for the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, provides trade-specific training including training on BIM software to apprentices and journeymen who are members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union (SMART).

“I started writing down whatever they said,” said Keane of his first meetings with company owners or company BIM personnel. “They opened up and they unleashed. They weren’t going to hurt my feelings. They were very constructive meetings.”

The information gathered during the exchange was turned into the BIMmersion course, which includes immersion training in everything from Microsoft Office and professional skills to Revit, Navisworks and AutoCAD. The classes are split between White Bear Lake, Minn. and Fairfield, Calif. over six weeks in July, August, September and October. The training is free, although attendees pay for their own travel, accommodations and transportation.

The courses are each limited to 15 students, and each is flexible, depending on individual training needs. The course is designed to provide a full training experience over the entire six weeks; however, each class can be taken on its own or as part of a single week, Keane said.

Week one, from July 28 to Aug. 2, will cover technical skills while week two, from Aug. 4-8 will discuss BIM theory, professional skills and Microsoft Office. During week three, from Aug. 11-15, fabrication and drafting software will be taught with week four, from Sept. 15- 20, covering Revit and Navisworks. The study of Cobie, SMACNA and mechanical, electrical and plumbing codes will take place during week five, from Sept. 22-26, and the classes will wrap with advanced AutoCAD, Total Station, Autodesk and Abode workshops from Sept. 29 through Oct. 3. A complete list of classes and descriptions can be found in the Training Catalog on the ITI’s website www.sheetmetal-iti.org (an account with the ITI is required).

Weeks one, three, four and six will take place at Sheet Metal Workers Local 10 training center in White Bear Lake, Minn. with weeks two and five at the new Local 104 training center in Fairfield, Calif.

While some of the classes are more advanced, other classes are meant to help each student become a better-rounded employee. Also, for older workers who never received specific software training, it’s a chance to improve their marketability.

“The old paradigms don’t fit anymore,” Keane said.  “It will help them understand how the construction industry has changed and how they can change with it.”

The overall goal is to make the members good employees, not just good sheet metal workers.

“We want our members trained in it, so they know what to do when they are presented with the opportunity,” said Ron McGuire, ITI BIM coordinator. “It’s all about training our members.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at 160 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Sheet metal work gets boost in efficiency through new technology

International Training Institute launches web-based e-reader, new website

FAIRFAX, Va.  – Technology is ever changing, and it is the job of the International Training Institute (ITI), the education and training arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, to make sure today’s apprentices and journey persons have all the tools to make their jobs as efficient as possible. In today’s world, that means making text books available online and via mobile devices as well as updating the organization’s website.

The ITI previously developed and released applications that allow apprentices to look at textbooks on their iPads as well as on Windows-based computers. After receiving feedback from members, a new web-based e-reader was put into development. With the launch of this new way to look at texts and class assignments, apprentices and journey persons enrolled in courses can see their books from any device with an Internet browser.

The option is good for anyone on the go, or for those who don’t have a computer at home or an iPad.

“We had a lot of members asking for a web-based e-reader,” said Larry Lawrence, ITI field representative and instructional development specialist. “If an enrolled apprentice or journeymen has a device that can get on the Internet, they can use it. We’ve essentially fulfilled the needs of the workers.”

Each method of viewing the material has its features, and workers can choose which fits them and their devices the best. On the Windows-based e-reader, students can print pages from texts, and on the iPad application, they can store books on the device from the application. On the web based e-reader, saving and printing functionality is limited to specific versions. A mobile version of the web based e-reader is available, allowing for easier viewing on a smaller screen.

The additional e-reader also helps ITI save money on printing – they don’t have to print new textbooks or fulfill large orders as often – and it puts the most updated copies in the students’ hands.

“There are many different ways for them to access the material,” Lawrence said.

In addition to the web-based e-reader, the general look and feel of the website will allow for easier navigation, said David Collins, software development manager for ITI.

“About a year ago, we started traveling around the county taking original photos to update nearly all the imagery on the site, so the members will be able to really see themselves in the new design,” Collins said. “The information on the site was good, and unless it was invalid or outdated, we kept it. It just needed to be refreshed.”

The new website, along with all the other technical advances in the industry, are meant to help members works efficiently and serve as a tool as important as a hammer, a pair of snips or the latest computer software.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Sheet metal apprentice uses engineering degree to add depth to work

Andy Phelps of Barnes and Dodge forges different path to career in industry

Having the skills to approach a sheet metal job from the perspectives of an engineer and a sheet metal worker is a rare ability. Engineers typically see the whole picture, where many workers focus on individual jobs, unclear of how their project affects the entire operation. Andy Phelps, an apprentice at the Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 2 training center in Kansas City, is a new kind of sheet metal worker – one with the higher education degree to help him see the big picture and the apprenticeship to make him understand the work.

With a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Kansas firmly in hand, Phelps dove into the world of the engineering consultant, designing systems for projects. Once he was finished designing a project, he never saw it – or its outcome – again. After five years, he decided he wanted to know more about each project and went back to his roots as a project manager at Barnes and Dodge in Lenexa, Kan., the company his grandfather purchased 40 years ago. He also was accepted into the apprentice program at Sheet Metal Workers No. 2 in Kansas City.

Phelps’ path to a career in the unionized sheet metal industry is only one approach. People can become an apprentice straight out of high school, junior college, technical college or the military; after earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree; or following 15 years of experience in a labor trade.

Apprentices also graduate from their studies free of debt with a well-paying career in front of them.

“We are seeing people with five to 10 years of work experience – maybe they went to college, maybe they worked in the field. Either way, it’s beneficial to have that maturity,” Phelps added.

Now a third-year apprentice, Phelps’ eyes are opened to a wide-angle view on the company, how it operates and the projects completed under its roof and on the jobsite.

“I kind of knew I would make that transition sometime in my career. I knew being a consulting engineer wouldn’t be a life-long career for me and that I would come into the sheet metal trade at some level at some time,” Phelps said. “I’m not coming into it completely new. I have a fairly robust background with HVAC systems. Being an engineer, you tend to look at what you’re doing differently. It helps you see the big picture. I think it’s important to have the skill and ask the questions, ‘Why did I design it this way?’ or ‘How can I do it differently to save some time and some money?’”

As an engineer, Phelps primarily worked at a desk. As an apprentice, he is getting up close and personal with the hands-on aspect of the career. Becoming an apprentice is as much a physical experience as it is a mental one. Phelps had to adjust from being the engineer who created the steps to the worker who was required to complete the process.

“There are times it’s a whole new animal,” he said. “It takes time to understand why I’m running through the steps I’m running. It’s a continual learning process, but my previous experience helps out what I’m doing now.”

Jokes about contractors, jokes about engineers – he’s heard them all. Wearing the two hats helps him understand every aspect of the company he hopes to inherit and take the reins of someday.

“Having a degree isn’t a pre-requisite for being a sheet metal apprentice. But it does help with your marketability in the industry. Having that degree or having that work experience helps,” Phelps added.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Colorado native finds higher education niche in sheet metal work

Columbine shooting survivor accepts own learning style, uses it to form a career

FAIRFAX, Va. – In the spring of 1999, Greg Barnes was a senior at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher and injured 24 others. Always good at math and problem solving, Barnes didn’t take to classroom learning, and when his last days of high school were marred by violence, he left, earned his GED and tried to get on with his life.

(Barnes does not share any relation to the former Columbine basketball standout with the same name.)

He attempted community college, but going back to traditional schooling reminded him of the massacre. After a year-and-a-half, he left school again and went to work in a body shop. There, he was introduced to sheet metal, and his outlook on education officially changed.

Deciding to pursue sheet metal as a career, he became an apprentice at the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry. There, he realized he responded better to hands-on learning than classroom instruction. And where math and problem solving were once assignments he completed at a desk, they were now calculations he performed on a job site, in a testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) lab, or in a fabrication shop. Education no longer just meant school, it meant learning. It also was the form of higher education that fit him best.

“I was learning about what I was doing every day. I was learning in the classroom and in the field. And they coincided with each other,” Barnes said. “I could work and earn at the same time. It was perfect for me.”

Once sheet metal apprentices are accepted into an accredited program at one of 160 training centers across North America, they complete four to five years of education and training in the classroom and on the jobsite, where they are paid for their work. Apprentices can choose to study architectural sheet metal, industrial/welding, service, TAB, building information modeling and design, and HVAC, among others, and graduate from the program with a career and zero college debt. College credits earned can also be put toward a higher level degree.

After Barnes found his niche as a sheet metal worker with a knack for testing, adjusting and balancing the air flow in commercial buildings, he quickly progressed in the industry. He graduated from the apprentice program in 2009, and four years later is a vice president and project manager for Jedi Balancing in Erie, Colo.

“The old adage that labor work is for the uneducated has never been further from the truth, and Greg is proof of that. Instead of learning his best in a classroom, he made sense of the material better out in the field,” said James Shoulders, administrator of the ITI. “His intelligence and success as an apprentice is proven with his position. You don’t move up in a company that fast in four years without intelligence, a good work ethic and an education you can truly learn from.”

Today, he continues to learn as he’s hardly ever in the same building doing the same job two days in a row.

“Everything we do is calculations or problem solving,” Barnes said. “It’s a new challenge every day.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

TotalTrack a success with nearly 130 sheet metal training centers

Internet-based system simplifies workflow, increases efficiency at centers nationwide

FAIRFAX, Va.  – In today’s unionized sheet metal industry, tools are not limited to snips, hammers and welding equipment. Technology plays a key role in everything from designing HVAC systems to monitoring and contacting apprentices, grading exams and tracking work hours. TotalTrack simplifies the work of instructors and training coordinators, allowing them to spend more time with students and less time doing paperwork.

In the last two years, 129 training centers for the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry have implemented TotalTrack, a proprietary comprehensive database system that puts all apprentice and training journeymen information in one place. The first centers began using the system in 2011.

The TotalTrack system was developed by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry leadership.

“Within a week of its installation, my secretary was singing its praises,” said Alan Still, training director for the Atlanta Local No. 85 training center. “The instructors picked up on it right away. They love it. It’s made my job so much easier, and it’s better, by far, than anything we had before.”

Because TotalTrack is Internet-based, it doesn’t need to be installed on a computer network or require upgrades usually associated with an implementation of this size. Instructors, coordinators and students can access TotalTrack from anywhere they have Internet capabilities. Instructors can work on lesson plans, students can receive messages and homework assignments, and coordinators and administrators can check hours from anywhere, which frees instructors to do work at home.

“Once instructors upload their coursework for the school year, they don’t have to hunt and find papers for the next year because it’s all in TotalTrack,” Still added. “I used to have to do double work. Now, they enter it straight into TotalTrack, and I don’t have to fool with it.”

Cheryl Green, administrative assistant for the Local No. 17 training center in Boston, used to have to call members one by one to let them know about a meeting or change of schedule. TotalTrack streamlined a once daunting task.

“I have a lot of communication with the apprentices. If we have a union meeting, I can send a text message to every apprentice through TotalTrack. I don’t have to call each of them like I did in the past,” she said. “It used to take hours and days. You can leave them a text message or email. You can even leave a voice mail. I pre-record myself. They can’t hide from me.”

On the administrative side, the system also makes it easier to manage payroll, which is calculated using student attendance and work hours attached to personnel files. These are all tracked using one system and no paperwork. Instead of hunting through filing cabinets for a personnel folder, a transcript of an apprentice’s work can be printed from TotalTrack. Less paperwork and less hunting makes for happy and efficient employees.

“I can go onto TotalTrack, and the instructor has already entered the attendance. I can just enter it straight into my payroll,” said Patti Smart, office manager and bookkeeper for the Local No. 17 training center. “Before, I had a piece of paper with the attendance on it. For me, this makes it a lot easier. You have it all right there in one program, one place. If you need to look up an apprentice, it’s all right there.”

The best part about the system is it was free to all training centers and fully customizable to each one. Although some forms are templates, centers were encouraged to have their own forms created and share ideas for new templates. Overall, the reviews have been positive.

“It has absolutely changed our apprentice program for the better,” Still said. “It’s changed the way we do everything.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Cleveland sheet metal workers earn international award

Local #33 training center earns Best New IPAF Training Centre of the Year

FAIRFAX, Va. – In all, 13 awards were given at the International Awards for Powered Access (IAPA) in Miami on March 26, but for unionized sheet metal workers in Cleveland, they were hoping for one in particular – Best New IPAF Training Centre of the Year.

Instructors from the Cleveland training center accepted the award that night on behalf of the Sheet Metal Workers Local #33, Cleveland District Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). The training center is the first of its kind in the United States to earn the distinction.

“It is one thing to get internal recognition. It would be neat. But this was over the top, because it wasn’t sheet metal or building trades giving the awards. It was different,” said John Nesta, training coordinator at the Cleveland training center. The award helps to show the international industry how sheet metal workers are trained. “We’re using an internationally recognized program and trying to push it forward.”

The annual awards, organized by KHL Group’s Access International and Access Lift and Handlers magazines and the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), celebrate best practices and excellence in the powered access industry. This was the first time the awards and subsequent convention were held in the United States.

The Cleveland training center began providing American Work Platform Training (AWPT) last August in addition to the curriculum provided at the center through the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry. The course consists of eight to 10 hours of classroom and hands-on study regarding scissor and boom lifts. In Europe, aerial lift operators are required to have a license in order to use the lifts, which is not the general rule in the United States.

Local #33’s training centers in Cleveland and Toledo offer the training along with Local #73’s center in Chicago. They are the only sheet metal worker training centers to offer the training and a member of a cadre of 27 general training sites across the United States.

The license earned during the training is becoming a sought-after tool as many projects are beginning to require workers to have it in order to work on sites where only scissor and boom lifts are used, Nesta said.

The training course at the sheet metal workers training centers was created by the IPAF to meet OSHA and international standards.

“In Europe, this is like a driver’s license,” Nesta said. “With our guys, it was based on who taught you – if you had a good person, you knew what you were doing. If you didn’t, you were flying by the seat of your pants.”

For members of Local #33, the license is another tool to have in their belts and makes them more employable to contractors. Aerial lifts are used in the automotive industry as well as hospitals, plants and other large commercial buildings. Many projects are starting to implement the “ladders last” policy on job sites, which means aerial lift licensing and safety is required, Nesta added.

“The workers who’ve been through the course have been grateful,” said Nesta who, along with his instructors, also took the course. “We walked out of the instructors’ course amazed at what we were supposed to be doing, and we are passing that knowledge on to our students.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Sheet metal industry text books available on Windows-based devices

More than 100 text books now available on devices serving two operating platforms

FAIRFAX, Va. – Higher educational institutions across the country are offering text books to their students via e-reader. Not only does it save students from lugging heavy text books across campus, it saves them money on expensive texts they can oftentimes never resell.

Last year, the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, joined many colleges and universities and introduced text books available via iPad. In April, the ITI launched the long-awaited Windows version, available on laptops, desktop computers and tablets running the Windows operating system.

In the Windows version, students can highlight text, place notes, search text and print­, which is not an option on the iPad version. Apprentices and journeymen must be granted access to the text books through TotalTrack, a proprietary comprehensive database that puts all apprentice and journeyman information, along with assignments, course syllabi, grade books, forms for instructors and exams, in one place. From there, instructors or apprentice training coordinators can grant accessibility to students to 116 text books.

While the e-reader benefits students, it makes instructors’ jobs easier as well.

“This will be an invaluable tool for instructors to print exercises and handouts right from the curriculum,” said Larry Lawrence, ITI field representative and instructional developmental specialist. “The ITI felt that developing an application that would allow the user to highlight text, place notes, search text and print from the application would be a win-win for all of us.”

“TotalTrack and the electronic curricula put ITI on the forefront of technology in the unionized building trades,” added James Shoulders, administrator for the ITI. “By keeping up with technology, the ITI better prepares apprentices for the sheet metal careers of the future.”

The application was developed by Maryland-based firm MOSAIC Learning. The mobile content delivery system offers a user-friendly interface with search capabilities, large file view with no delay, off-line access to downloaded content, password protection, non-stop encryption, push notification ability and zoom capabilities.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

Sheet metal workers make union life the family business for generations

U.S. families tell tales of family, changes in work, training dating back 100 years

FAIRFAX, Va. – These days, the thought of carrying on the family business can be an antiquated one. With the advent of technology and the evolution of commerce over the last 100 years, the number of families still in the same business they were a century ago — let alone attending the same training center — isn’t as common an occurrence as it once was. But for many U.S. families, the unionized sheet metal industry and the training centers that prepare them are a part of their family business, and it has been for up to four generations.

The industry’s official birth was in 1888, and since the first seven locals were established in America, skills have been passed down from parent to child. Many times, a single family name can be tied to a local for 100 years, and when the next generation enters, the timeline and history of the local continues with it. Four generations in the industry – such as the Williamses in Memphis, the Thraps in Iowa and the Nestas in Cleveland ­– also illustrate the evolution of the industry and its training over the years.

“I used to see all the fancy fittings and my father’s drawings. I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” said Robert Williams, the third in four generations of sheet metal workers in Memphis.

With the invention of three-dimensional building information modeling software, e-readers and other computerized tools, today’s industry and its training is much different than just a decade ago.

“They told my father, ‘if you can be as good a mechanic as your father, you’ll be good,’ and they told me the same thing,” he said. “When I started, they didn’t have computers. We cut everything out by hand. Nowadays, it’s all computer operated. It’s faster, so it helps the contractor and the customer. We had to stay ahead of the game, keep ahead of technology.”

The Williams’ family relationship with the industry began in 1910, when John T. Williams started his apprenticeship out of Local 100 in Roanoke, Va. The family moved to Memphis and Local 4 in 1940 after Bill Williams, John’s son, completed his apprenticeship. Today, the family name lives on with John E. Williams, the business representative and training coordinator for Local 4, and his youngest brother, Ryan, who is currently a second-year apprentice. When Ryan graduates, his certificate will go on the wall next to that of his great-grandfather, grandfather, father and brother.

“I’m proud of it,” John E. Williams said. “It’s my heritage, my family. I’m proud to be a part of the union. The Williams family has always been good sheet metal workers.”

Four generations of sheet metal workers at Local 45 in Des Moines, Iowa started in the late 1940s with Ralph Thrap, a boilermaker and railroad union worker who repaired steam engines at the rail yards. Thrap migrated his family to Southern California during World War II to work on airplanes and returned to Iowa in the late 1940s to work at Blackman Sheet Metal. Before he retired in 1960, the elder Thrap worked on the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River and the National Animal Disease Lab, the project his great-grandson, Shaun Thrap, is working on today.

The industry runs in the family, but what also runs deep is the heart behind the work.

“I started with my grandfather working on furnaces when I was 6 years old,” said Kenny Thrap, the third generation sheet metal worker in the family. His father, Kenneth E. Thrap, began his apprenticeship at age 19. “I went to job sites with my dad on weekends, cleaned up and picked up screws from when I was 8 until I was 14.”

Kenny Thrap, general superintendent at Waldinger Corporation, also shares his workplace with his family. His son, Shaun, is a foreman at the company, and his father worked there, too.

“With the exception of about six months, my father’s whole career was at the same place,” he added. “I guess you can call it a family business.”

At 112 years old, the Waldinger Corporation is an illustration of how the industry has evolved and why keeping an eye on technology is important for future generations. What was once done painstakingly by hand is now done with the use of computers.

“The technology that is evolving and that has been since I joined the trade in 1980 is staggering. And where we’re going from here is exciting,” Kenny Thrap said. “There is no repetition. Everything is new. The people are good to work with and work for. Heating, air conditioning and ventilation are always going to be there. Every day is a challenge, and we have fun doing it.”

The trade has changed by leaps and bounds since John V. Nesta graduated from his apprenticeship from Local 33 in Cleveland in 1983. Back then, if a worker was good at layout, his or her career was set for life. As he worked off a sheer list blanking off pieces, John V. Nesta often heard, “Learn layout. You’ll never miss a day because those computer things will never do what I do.”

A lot has changed since his father, also named John Nesta, was an apprentice. Safety regulations create a healthier workplace and technology, although efficient, also lessens the toll on workers’ bodies.

“The progression has made individuals more productive. It’s raised the caliber of worker we need. Today, six guys’ jobs would have taken 20. Just being a good worker now isn’t enough. You have to troubleshoot, problem solve,” John V. Nesta said. “You’re not picking up and lugging what you used to, either. You think back and think I could’ve lost fingers, hands.”

The Nesta family is well known at Local 33 as John V. Nesta is the training coordinator, his brother, Paul, is a member and his son, Victor, is currently the conductor/warden for Local 33.

One thing his father always told him: get involved, John Nesta said. And this is a sentiment shared by others in the multi-generations club.

“I think we’ve tried to uphold a good family reputation,” he added. “If someone knows you and doesn’t know the other guy, you have a better shot at getting hired.”

John E. Williams became an instructor to give back to the training center that had given so much to his family.

“It’s always about giving back to the local,” he said. That’s the one thing our family has always wanted to do is give back.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

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