PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMARTâ€”Building a Future Together
SMACNA and SMART partnerships help make the world a better, safer place
PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together
JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. ANGELA SIMON Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief
8 Photo credit: Weickert Industries
April 2020 - Volume 14, Number 4
LIFE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19 AND BEYOND
put people first, even when conditions are suboptimal.
The signatory sheet metal industry will always get the job done right and
SMALL IDEA, HUGE INSPIRATION
SMACNA and SMART work together to fabricate thousands of nose strips to aid in the COVID-19 relief effort.
7 JONNY BOYCE: MY JOURNEY Jonny Boyce, lead architectural detailer at General Sheet Metal, is grateful
he chose the building industry.
8 PARTNERS FOR SHELTER The effort between SMACNA contractor Weickert Industries and Local 28 to
POINT ONE MEDIA INC. email@example.com Creative Services
Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund. All contents ©2020 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211. Find Partners in Progress online at pinp.org or at issuu.com/ partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
build temporary hospital space is just one of many in New York state.
10 LOS ANGELES COVID-19 EXPOSURE CONTROL PLAN SMACNA-SoCal and Local 108 partner to keep workers safe in Los Angeles. 12 LEAD BY EXAMPLE Foreperson training benefits contractors, the workforce, and the entire industry.
14 JOINT APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS
Our training programs build rewarding, lifetime careers with zero debt.
JESSICA KIRBY email@example.com Editor
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S HE E T M E TA L | A I R | R A I L | T R A N S P O R TAT I O N
Life in the Age of COVID-19
If the April version of myself were to tell the January version of myself how life has evolved in the past few months, I don’t think the story would be believable. The world has truly turned upside down from anything anyone envisioned. However, one of the things that will not change when the new “normal” settles in is that the signatory sheet metal industry is filled with individuals—both labor and management—who are equipped to get the job done right and put people first, even when conditions are suboptimal. We are leading by example in markets across the country, using creativity and hard work to ensure the safety of our workforce though implementing exposure control plans (page 10), contributing to custom-fit face masks made by volunteers (page 4), setting up temporary hospitals (page 8), producing intubation shields, creating temporary ductwork through windows of COVID-19 patient rooms, quickly converting convention centers into health facilities, manufacturing delivery boxes for installation outside of carryout restaurants, and more. (Follow Partners in Progress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for stories like these.) (There is ongoing need for the aluminum nose pieces used for the millions of face masks being made by volunteers across the United States and Canada. See the ad on the back page of this issue and email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer your services or visit actionnetwork.org/forms/nose-piecerequest-form.) Some things that will change in the brave new world of the future will be work processes that affect productivity, such as CDC protocols and limitations on the number of people in elevators or using scissor lifts at the same time. Such changes may be to our advantage, and our training standards and certifications will most likely give us a head start. Owners and facility managers are likely to focus more on safety than on the bottom dollar on their projects. We expect the environment to be one that our Expertise—HVAC, Architectural, Industrial, and Green—is particularly well-suited to serve. Further, SMACNA and SMART are working together through the Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force to ensure that we are ready to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets—some of them entirely new from two months ago—as well as renewed emphasis on air quality, sustainability and energy efficiency, lean construction, prefab, modularization, and alternate delivery methods. Follow Partners in Progress, as well as SMART and SMACNA and other jointly-sponsored funds and trusts, for the latest information that can be applied to your local area. We know that while many of our contractors and craftspersons are busier than ever working under difficult circumstances,
the thousands of individuals who are without work during the quarantines may make us reluctant to think about workforce development. But our past has shown that there is never a time to just “hope” that everything will turn out roses in the future. Continuing to tell people—especially potential apprentices, their families, parents, counselors, and other gatekeepers— what we do, how we do it, and the benefits and opportunities available within this industry is a vital step in ensuring a healthy future for our industry. (Brand Ambassadors can be especially helpful on social media when they share their journey with others.) We are moving ahead with our recruiting initiative (the first campaign is #mjmg or “My Job is My Gym”) and expect to soon offer a members-only web portal that allows Locals, contractors, training centers, and chapters to directly purchase customized materials, including posters in English and Spanish, flyers, banner ads, shirts, and even videos and a presentation template. (In the meantime, if you would like print materials customized to your area, complete the SMART/SMACNA Recruiting Info Survey available from pinp.org/resources/recruiting/. For additional assistance, contact email@example.com or send a query via the Contact Form on pinp.org.) Our webinar series will continue in the coming months. See the schedule and view previous webinars at pinp.org/resources/ recruiting/. You will need to register for account on the site to view the resources.) For now, focus on keeping yourself and your family healthy and on demonstrating the strength and resilience of our industry. (Refer to the resources available from SMOHIT at smohit.org for the latest news, information, articles, and other developments related to COVID-19 and other health and safety issues.) ▪
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Partners in Progress » April 2020 » 3
Small idea, HUGE inspiration From one small shop in Connecticut to a national cause, metal nose strips bring people together By / Natalie Bruckner Photo courtesy of The Day There’s an old adage that goes, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” When Joe de la Cruz, vice president of the Hillery Company and Local 40 member, cut his first metal nose strips in his custom fabrication shop in Groton, Connecticut, little did he know the ripple effect it would have. “It started as an idea,” he says. “A local nurse from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital asked my wife if I would be able to make 25 aluminum nose strips, like those used on N95 masks, for the masks being made by the volunteers.” The aluminum nose strips are critical to custom-fitting the top of the mask to a person’s face to increase the efficacy of the mask at repeling droplets that could potentially contain or spread illness. The next day, de la Cruz bought two aluminum sheets— enough for 200 nose strips—and decided to post online to see if anyone needed any. 4 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
“In less than a week, we had around 3,000 requests from people all across the country,” de la Cruz says. “We were overwhelmed. I mean, we are sheet metal workers, and were not really sure what to do with this.”
He reached out to Local 40 in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, to explain the situation and see if they could assist. “When Joe contacted me, my only thought was, ‘Let’s get going,’” says David Roche, business manager at Local 40. “As soon as we heard they were getting inundated, we got sheets of metal and started chopping them up.”
As word spread, so did the number of requests, so Roche contacted Paul Pimentel, communications and research at SMART, and asked him to put the message out to the SMART Army. “Paul arranged a conference call, and we all said, ‘Let’s do this,’” Roche says. “It was that easy. In my 17 years as a
business manager, I’ve never had such a satisfying feeling as I have now, being part of this movement.” Pimentel created an online request form and began publicizing it on social media on April 7. Within hours, the union had over 100 requests. For efficiency, when each request comes in SMART assigns it to a Local near that zip code. The Local then works with a union contractor in the area to produce the strips and deliver them to the volunteer or organization. As of May 1, the SMART Army has donated thousands of hours and metal nose strips, and, according to Pimentel, has filled more than 19,000 requests totaling more than 12 million nose strips. The only challenge now is a shortage of material to create the thin and flexible pieces. “It has been a rollercoaster,” de la Cruz says. “I have people phoning me up daily in tears. I had one lady from Washington state telling me she needed 1,000, so we reached out to our partners and she got the pieces in the afternoon from a local contractor. It’s a repeating story.” At his own shop, de la Cruz and his team have cut 55,000 metal nose strip so far and shipped 500,000 pieces, despite being on a skeleton crew while adhering to social distancing practices. He says that for Connecticut, the big saviour for him and his team was United Contracting & Roofing in Local 38, which physically delivered 200,000 pieces to de la Cruz to ship. In addition to making the strips and filling requests, de la Cruz has been sharing the specifications for the strips with other shops—three-inch-long by 1/4-inch-wide strips that are cut using a shear. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” he says. De la Cruz adds that being part of a cause that is causing such a big impact makes him very emotional. “Everywhere I look, I see them,” he says. “My wife often says to me, ‘Are you
“In my 17 years as a business manager, I’ve never had such a satisfying feeling as I have now, being part of this movement.” —Dave Roche, business manager, Local 40
going to cry?’ What makes me so emotional is that the union jumped right in, and we have brothers and sisters all stepping up to support communities and each other—we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It has been life-changing for my family. My wife joins me at work every day to help take orders and handle shipping.” Partners in Progress » April 2020 » 5
Small idea, Huge inspiration Scour the internet and social media feeds for SMART or SMACNA pages and type in #MillionMaskChallenge or #Smartarmy and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of labor and management organizations working together to ensure those who need the metal nose strips get them as quickly as possible, a case of #givingback at its finest. “We want to do everything we can to help and support health care workers and first responders who are on the front lines helping people and savings lives in our communities during this public health crisis,” says SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “This is a great idea that began with one union shop in Connecticut and took off like wildfire. We are now working to scale this up as fast as we can across the United States and Canada.” Jim Paquette, business manager at Local 280 in Vancouver, British Columbia, says SMACNA contractors Smith Sheet Metal and Viaduct Sheet Metal and the Sheet Metal Workers Training Centre (SMWTC) have also come together to contribute to the relief effort by donating time and materials in the production of metal nose strips. As of May 1, theses organizations combined have cut approximately 18,000 aluminum strips for nose pieces. The
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material has been donated, either by the employer or by the metal supplier for the SMWTC, as have the time and labor to shear them all up. Local 280 has been picking up, packaging, and mailing orders ranging in size from 40 to 1,000 across the province. “They are going to various volunteers who are busy sewing face masks, and the orders keep coming in,” says Paquette. Over at Local 40, they have made more than 30,000 metal nose strips to date and are sending out approximately 6,000 a day. Roche and five members of his team get into the office at about 6:30 a.m. and start working on the orders. He adds that when people phone up to thank them, he says, “You don’t need to thank us or donate. It’s what we do.” Afterall, sheet metal workers are known for supporting families in time of need, and that doesn’t always mean family by blood. “I tell people, this is why the wizard gave the tin man a heart,” Roche says. “Because he knew how to put it to good use.” ▪ Natalie is an award-winning writer who has worked in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United States, and Canada. She has more than 23 years experience as a journalist, editor, and brand builder, specializing in construction and transportation.
MY JOURNEY: JONNY BOYCE LEAD ARCHITECTURAL DETAILER GENERAL SHEET METAL As a detailer, we read the plans and specs, convert the information into a buildable product, and convey that information in an easy-to-understand drawing. We have to account for grain direction of panels, expansion and contraction of metal, and galvanic reaction/corrosion risk between dissimilar metals. We have to consider adjacent trades, field install, shop fabrication, cost of materials, and fabrication—all while following SMACNA standards. Our job is very improtant to the success of a project, and everything we do has to be extremely accurate.
Early on, I worked a lot of jobs. Nothing ever stuck, challenged me, or utilized my full potential. When I got into construction, that changed. I started on the architectural side: climbing on buildings, traveling, and working around town. There was so much to learn, and it was rewarding. Once I had a child, I started going to school for graphic design. Eventually, I came to a crossroad: stick with construction or pursue graphic design? I chose to build things. I joined Local 16 in Portland, Oregon. I took AutoCAD classes and learned SOLIDWORKS, Fusion 360, and more. I get to see the ideas and designs I participate in come to life. I’m constantly challenged every day. I still have
so much to learn, and that keeps me engaged. We are consistently required to think outside the box to create solutions to ever-evolving problems. I’ve worked on the Hyatt Hotel, Oregon Convention Center garage, Intel RA4/D1X, Oregon Health Sciences University, Center for Health and Healing, Vancouver waterfront, Portland Water Bureau, Portland Community College, Collaborative Life Sciences Building, and hundreds of smaller jobs. I’ve had the opportunity to create and learn some amazing things throughout the years, and every day I’m thankful that this is the path I chose. ▪ Jonny Boyce used his graphic design skills to design the graphics for the My Job is My Gym #MJMG Branda Ambassadros program. Learn more at www.pinp.org.
Partners for Shelter Locals work with contractors to set up temporary hospitals By / Natalie Bruckner Photos by Weickert Industries
As hospitals across the country scramble to accommodate the growing number of COVID-19 patients, SMACNA contractors and SMART craftspersons are stepping up at a moment’s notice to help alleviate some of the strain on the system. In New York, considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic where the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as of mid-April exceeded 100,000, there are concerns that not enough hospital beds will be available to meet demand. In an effort to escalate preparedness in the area, temporary hospitals and triage tents (which are used to assign degrees of urgency) have been set up to act as an extension to hospitals’ emergency rooms. But there is a sense of extreme urgency with no time to waste if the country is to tackle the problem. On March 27, John Weickert III, fifth generation of the family-owned Weickert Industries, received a call to help build one of those triage tents at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York. “Receiving a call like that in the middle of the pandemic, well, you just don’t even think twice about it,” he says. “I got the call at about 2 p.m. on the Friday, and I was at the hospital at around 4:30 p.m. We came up with a plan, and on Saturday morning we opened up the shop to fabricate the ductwork for the tent, loaded it onto the truck in the afternoon, and installed it that day. It was essential to have air conditioning and heating in place and ready to go before they could open to the public.” 8 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
NYU Winthrop Hospital is just one example of the 341 temporary hospitals that are expected to be built across the country in response to the pandemic. NYU Winthrop Hospital, which was originally operating at 511 beds, has been able to increase this number following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s request that hospitals increase their capacity by 50 percent. Anne Kazel-Wilcox, public relations manager at NYU Winthrop Hospital, says the facility now has two emergency department triage tents. “They were erected in a matter of days,” she says. “The first one was finished early April and the second in mid-April. Each tent is used to help assess and manage those presenting with respiratory symptoms, accommodating overflow to our emergency department.” In total, the two tents can accommodate around 40 patients. Weickert was also involved in the second tent, but on a consultancy basis. “The market had gone quiet by that stage, so we were down to a skeleton crew when I got the call that they needed ductwork erected on a second tent,” he says. “I provided guidance and went down to do the balancing to verify the air ducts would have the proper warm or cool air delivery for the comfort of staff and patients.” Eric Meslin, president and business manager at Local 28 of Metropolitan New York and Long Island, adds that a number of his contractors have been busy working on temporary hospitals across the state to help assist during the pandemic.
“I am extremely proud of the fact that Local 28 sheet metal workers and our contractors have stepped up to utilize their craftsmanship and expertise when called upon,” he says. “There is a great sense of pride knowing that we are doing our part during these chaotic and uncertain times. There are no words to express how we feel knowing that we are helping to flatten the curve of COVID-19.” He adds that being available and ready to go when called upon by the community is an inherent trait within the sheet metal industry. “There really is no better choice than a union workforce when quality, speed, and safety is a necessity,” Meslin says. “It is a perfect example of labor and management working together for the benefit of all.” Whether it’s Delta Sheet Metal’s work on the SUNY Old Westbury 1,000-bed temporary hospital, Heritage Mechanical Services assistance on the 1,000 bed Stonybrook University, or CW Sheet Metal who have been working in various locations to increase hospital capacity, sheet metal workers across the state of New York are stepping up to ease the strain on the healthcare system. For Weickert, being part of something that will benefit healthcare professionals and facilities makes him proud, but it also has a deeper meaning. “My auntie, who is my godmother, is a nurse at NYU Winthrop Hospital and works in the intensive care unit,” he says. “Also, my two children were born in that hospital, so this project is very personal to me.” Dr. Joseph Greco, senior vice-president and chief of hospital operations at NYU Winthrop, says that while many patients have already been cleared and testing for COVID-19 has now become more readily available—which means fewer ER visits are expected—should the situation change, the triage tents are part of a backup plan to ensure the hospital is now fully prepared. All across the country there are examples of SMART and SMACNA working together to build these temporary hospitals and supply them with the necessary equipment. In Boston, Massachusetts, Local 17 member J.C. Cannistraro worked around the clock to turn the Boston Convention &
+ Exhibition Center into a 1,000-bed field hospital with a stateof-the-art air system in just three days. In Detroit, Michigan, Local 292 sheet metal workers have been fabricating enclosures at Ford Motor Corp to launch a major effort to manufacture ventilators for hospitals and emergency facilities across the country. “It’s obviously very easy to sit back and let other people rush to the front lines when a serious crisis arises,” Meslin says. “But when the smoke clears and normalcy has returned, there is great satisfaction knowing you were part of the solution. Local 28 was part of the solution after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, Puerto Rico’s devastation, and currently this pandemic. We stand ready for the challenges ahead.” ▪ Natalie is an award-winning writer who has worked in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United States, and Canada. She has more than 23 years experience as a journalist, editor, and brand builder, specializing in construction and transportation. When she’s not writing, you will likely find her snowboarding, mountain biking, or climbing mountains with her rescue dog.
Partners in Progress » April 2020 » 9
©Canstock / gladkov
Los Angeles COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan By / Jordan Whitehouse On April 1, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new guidelines requiring all construction sites in the city to create a COVID-19 exposure control plan, and now SMACNA Southern California (SMACNA-SoCal) and Local 105 are working together to help make sure those plans are in place. The new guidelines—16 in total—were published by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS). They include directives for providing personal protective equipment, staggering trades as necessary to maintain physical distancing requirements, placing wash stations or hand sanitizers in multiple locations, and designating site-specific supervisors to enforce the guidelines. When Garcetti announced these new rules, he noted how important it was to continue critical infrastructure work in the city, but “never at the risk of anyone’s life.” It’s a sentiment echoed by SMACNA-SoCal Executive Director Kevin O’Dorisio. “It’s imperative that we are the best at implementing [these guidelines], managing them, and making sure that our clients appreciate the fact that we are very committed to not only doing a good job but to the safety of employees.” With such strict guidelines, O’Dorisio admits it can be tough to implement all of them, but he and Local 105 President and Business Manager Luther Medina agree that SMACNA-SoCal and Local 105 have been working closely together to make sure both contractors and union members are abiding by the new safety protocols. 10 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
The two organizations have, for example, agreed to a temporary memorandum of understanding that would allow contractors to work split shifts without differential pay to union members in order to keep crew sizes down to maximize social distancing requirements. Both SMACNA-SoCal and Local 105 are also in constant contact with their members through social media, email, and other channels to ensure everyone understands the guidelines and that their purpose is to keep everyone safe, healthy, and employed. As Garcetti said when he announced the guidelines, “We will not be shy about shutting down construction sites that do not comply. So comply.” The LADBS has said that its staff will verify compliance during regular scheduled inspections for projects under construction and will follow up on complaints submitted online or over the phone. Medina says there have been “very few” projects shut down in Local 105’s jurisdiction, and this is because everyone is taking the guidelines seriously. “Currently, in Local 105, we have about 7% unemployment; however, if our elected officials feel that our workforce is not abiding by the new safety guidelines for construction projects, they could easily decide to shut down much of the work, and we could easily see a rise in unemployment to 70% or more.” One other reason that hasn’t happened is the strong working relationship between SMACNA-SoCal and Local 105.
“We meet bi-monthly with our labor-management cooperation trust, and we have good, consistent communication,” O’Dorisio says. “Our relationship is very positive, and we recognize that we have a shared obligation to our industry. We do our very best to address that consistently at all times.” Still, as important as the guidelines are for ensuring the safety of all involved, O’Dorisio says some of them are “a bit of an overkill” and could be financially challenging for smaller contractors. One of the guidelines, for instance, dictates that the contractor has to designate a site-specific COVID-19 supervisor to enforce the rules. That supervisor has to be present on the worksite at all times during construction activities, and while the supervisor can be an on-site worker, there could be an additional cost associated with having someone perform this role. Garcetti acknowledged the challenges associated with these new guidelines and all of the rules Angelenos have to follow right now. But, he added, “the deeper we abide by these rules, the quicker this can be over. These are not ordinary times.
Everyone has to keep making these temporary sacrifices for the common good.” Difficult to abide by or not, Medina says that the industry appreciates that the governor and city mayors have labeled the construction industry as essential. “All of the guidelines are important when taken as a whole,” he says. “The important thing for our members to take to heart is that if we do not follow all construction safety protocols, the projects could be in jeopardy of shutting down.” O’Dorisio agrees, saying both SMACNA-SoCal and Local 105 understand that they have a shared responsibility to the industry and the people that make up the industry. “I want our people to come out of this whole and be in a position where we can rebuild and re-establish our marketplace,” he says. “We pride ourselves on being the best trained and the most capable on any particular project, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.” ▪ Jordan Whitehouse is a freelance business journalist from Vancouver, British Columbia, who writes for magazines, newspapers, and online publications throughout Canada and the United States.
Los Angeles COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan Guidelines 1. Practice social distancing by maintaining a minimum six-foot distance from others. A Public Notice of Social Distancing Protocol, in a manner consistent with the Mayor’s Order dated April 10, shall be posted at work site entrances. 2. Preclude gatherings of any size, and anywhere two or more people must meet, ensure minimum six-foot separation. 3. All workers and visitors on site shall wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while performing their work. Face coverings referenced in this guidance can be fabric coverings, such as scarves and bandana coverings. Reusable face coverings must be frequently washed, minimum once a day, for the health and safety of users and others. Single-use coverings must be properly discarded into trash receptacles. 4. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate for the activity being performed. 5. The owner/contractor shall designate a site specific COVID-19 supervisor to enforce this guidance. A designated COVID-19 supervisor shall be present on the construction site at all times during construction activities. The COVID-19 supervisor can be an on-site worker who is designated to carry this role. 6. Identify “choke points” and “high-risk areas” where workers are forced to stand together, such as hallways, hoists and elevators, break areas, and buses, and control them so social distancing is maintained. 7. Minimize interactions when picking up or delivering equipment or materials, and ensure minimum six-foot separation.
8. Stagger the trades as necessary to reduce density and maintain minimum six-foot separation social distancing. 9. Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, work tools, and equipment. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use. 10. Post, in areas visible to all workers, required hygienic practices, including not touching face with unwashed hands or with gloves; washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use of hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, machines, shared tools, elevator control buttons, and doorknobs; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; as well as other hygienic recommendations by the CDC. 11. Place wash stations or hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. 12. Require anyone on the project to stay home if they are sick, except to get medical care. 13. Have employees inform their supervisor if they have a sick family member at home with COVID-19. 14. Maintain a daily attendance log of all workers and visitors. 15. Employers must permit their employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes. 16. Employers must make sure employees have access to a clean and sanitary restroom, stocked with all necessary cleansing products, like soap and sanitizer. Partners in Progress » April 2020 » 11
LEAD By Example The foreperson holds the key to developing tomorrow’s workforce By / Natalie Bruckner Photos courtesy of Nic Bittle
There is no role in construction that can garner quite as much criticism and stress as that of foreperson, yet none requires such a wide range of skills including diplomacy, leadership, and occasionally, babysitting. “The foreperson also plays such a large role in profitability for our contractors,” says Kyle Tibbs, executive vice-president at SMACNA St. Louis. “When a foreperson has been given the tools to succeed, both labor and management benefit. We [SMACNA St. Louis and Local 36] feel equipping our forepersons with the right tools can only help our industry, improve market share, and sustain our contractors and workforce into the future.” That’s why SMACNA St. Louis and Local 36 work closely together to ensure forepersons have the necessary support and training needed to succeed—because if they succeed, everyone succeeds. “Being a foreperson ultimately means responsibility,” says Ray Reasons, a member of Local 36. “We have a lot of people who won’t even entertain the idea anymore because of this, so we are exploring ways to tap into 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
that culture to demonstrate how they can advance themselves financially and personally. We want to show them that they have our support and won’t be thrown in at the deep end.” While SMACNA St. Louis and Local 36 have done a great job in developing apprentices and making them journeypersons, they are ramping up their efforts and have taken the next step in employee development to fill the management level gap. “As representatives of our contractors, we must be ready to fill their needs, and as Baby Boomers retire, we will need skilled and trained journeypersons and managers,” Tibbs says. Part of that training includes teaching its members about generational divides, cost-awareness, and management techniques. SMACNA St. Louis and Local 36 also invite experts into their JATC to speak to members and offer a different perspective. One of the most recent seminars held at the JATC Training Center was A Foreman’s Guide To Developing Your Workforce, presented by Nic Bittle. “We have brought in speakers like Nic Bittle to help bridge that generational gap between Baby Boomers and our incoming workforce,” Tibbs
explains. “Additionally, we are working with other industries to find best practices and bring in new ideas we have yet to incorporate into our industry.” Bittle—a former welder, founder of Work Force Pro, and author of Good Foreman; Bad Foreman—works with contractors who want to prepare and develop their workforce. “When I first started these workshops eight years ago, I drew from my own experience; however, now it’s a combination of the wealth and knowledge of the tens of thousands of foremen I get to work with. I’m really just the messenger,” Bittle says. His approach considers the changing role of the foreperson, how to fill the void as the Baby Boomers begin to retire, and how to tackle today’s unique challenges. “In the past we didn’t necessarily teach our forepersons how to be good leaders,” he says. “If someone kept showing up long enough, they would eventually be the boss. However, just because someone is a good sheet metal worker doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to lead or develop people.” The problem is that most people lead as they were led. By default, they turn out exactly like their old bosses or the exact opposite without the opportunity to develop their own unique skillset or to discover their own strengths in building relationships with the workforce. “But mentorship is more about relationships than it is tools, tactics, and techniques,” Bittle says. “I think mentorship happens more over a cup of coffee than it does a set of plans.” Tibbs says that the contractors at their JATC have really embraced this idea of mentorship. “Ray Reasons and our longtime JATC contractor member Dan Durphy ask each apprentice every month at our JATC meetings, ‘Can we do anything? Can your contractor do anything? Are you receiving what you need to be successful?’ We are working collectively to ensure both labor and management are holding each other accountable. We have developed our workforce to hold that mentorship above all else, because it is the basis of our success. Without mentoring, we would not have such a dedicated and talented workforce.” The mentoring foreperson indeed faces numerous challenges today, one of which is the rapid increase in technology, which Tibbs says has caught many of their forepersons and management-level employees by surprise. “Companies around the globe are adjusting to accommodate our new generation that wishes to stay connected,” he says. “As an industry, we must find ways to keep a happy workforce and keep established safety standards.” Bittle agrees and says that adjusting to the needs of Millennials is essential. “This generation is known for job hopping, which is costing the industry billions,” he says. “I tell contractors they are losing good people for one of three reasons: They got into a trade they didn’t really understand; they are fleeing a relationship; or they are chasing an opportunity for progression or advancement when they’ve outgrown their position. Some forepersons don’t think their job is to inform, and so
“We are working collectively to ensure both labor and management are holding each other accountable. We have developed our workforce to hold that mentorship above all else, because it is the basis of our success.” — Kyle Tibbs, executive vice-president, SMACNA St. Louis
communication stops there. They believe their role is about getting the job done on time and on budget, and they worry that if they teach someone too much that person will either take their job or leave. That results in a spiral of mistrust.” In Bittle’s workshop, he demonstrates how to become a good mentor and that the root of success is in communication. “One of the tools I give these guys is to replace the term ‘What the hell’ with ‘Help me understand.’ In the construction world, we use rough language, but by changing the phrasing, you see a breakthrough. A question should inspire conversation not conflict.” Stephen Marchetto, foreperson at Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis, was one of the members who attended a recent workshop. He says he came away with some very useful tools he plans to put into use immediately. “Often, you attend workshops and there is nothing really new that transpires out of them,” he says. “Nic Bittle’s was extremely informative and helped me better understand those who want to join the workforce and how to keep them interested. The main points people came away with were how to deal with a generation that is always on cellphones, and how to communicate the impact of that. For me, the main point was the importance of listening and how to develop listening skills through communication.” This idea is at the heart of the partnership between SMACNA St. Louis and Local 36, organizations that pride themselves on their communication and respect. “Local 36 is proud that we have a good relationship with our contractors,” Reasons says. “There is give and take on both sides.” “By developing our own partnership, we are displaying to our contractors and our workforce that working together is the best approach,” Tibbs adds. “This translates into productive work on every project.” ▪ Natalie is an award-winning writer who has worked in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United States, and Canada. She has more than 23 years experience as a journalist, editor, and brand builder, specializing in construction and transportation. When she’s not writing, you will likely find her snowboarding, mountain biking, or climbing mountains with her rescue dog. Partners in Progress » March 2020 » 13
Joint Apprenticeship Programs Building Excellent Lifetime Careers By Deb Draper Photos courtesy of Local 219
Kurt Mattson (left) and Luke Baxter (right)
A recent study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has concluded that joint apprenticeship programs offer viable post-secondary options for good middle-class careers, rivaling bachelor’s degrees in expected lifetime earnings. Using 2018 data, the study found that despite a higher likelihood of unemployment spells, union journeypersons earn about as much on average ($2.4 million) as workers with bachelor’s degrees ($2.5 million after student debt) and more than double the pre-tax earnings of workers from employeronly programs. As well, apprentices hold the advantage of coming out of years of schooling debt-free with tuition costs carried by employers, labor-management organizations, and unions at no cost to the individual. Paul Eichhorn, marketing representative/organizer with Local 1 in Peoria, Illinois, sees this as a rare opportunity these days. “It’s a blessing and a financial relief to have a $100,000+ career with no college debt,” he says. “I grew up in the lower 14 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
middle class on the south side of Peoria, and it was hard to escape poverty. The union trades allowed someone like me to do that, and now I’ve been involved in some capacity in the sheet metal industry for 13 years.” Like so many young people thinking the answer to a good career is a university degree, Rockford, Illinois Local 219’s fifth-year apprentice Luke Baxter went directly into college out of high school, tried different directions, but after a few years felt he was getting nowhere. “I didn’t hear anything about the trades in high school, but some family members are union sheet metal workers,” he says. “They told me about the money, how the benefits were really good, and about how apprentices receive five years of schooling paid for. It almost seemed to be too good to be true.” Baxter says apprentices work hard for their keep, but as he finishes his apprenticeship in sheet metal later in 2020, his wife is also finishing her master’s degree and the difference in the outcome is notable. “I will be making almost double what she’s making coming out of college, while she owes about $50,000 in student loans and I owe nothing,” Baxter says.
“Contractors and unions are coming together for the JATC program. They understand it’s critical for young people to learn the trade correctly and efficiently. This says a lot about the international foundations of SMACNA and the ITI.” — Kurt Mattson, Local 219 JATC board trustee and vice president of DeKalb Mechanical Inc.
In return for their significant investment in the apprenticeship programs, employers receive a highly skilled, productive workforce. Kurt Mattson, trustee on Local 219’s JATC Board and vice president of DeKalb Mechanical Inc., knows that apprentices immediately earning wages and learning on the job is critical from a contractor’s standpoint. “Our scope of work aside, these individuals have thought far enough ahead and determined that this is what they want to do with their lives,” Mattson says. “That kind of commitment tells me they can plan, coordinate, and are responsible.” He believes the joint apprenticeship program also reflects the commitment of the sheet metal industry. “Contractors and unions are coming together for the JATC program,” he says. “They understand it’s critical for young people to learn the trade correctly and efficiently. This says a lot about the international foundations of SMACNA and the ITI. It’s a great thing for everyone.” SMACNA Greater Chicago Executive Vice President Tony Adolfs agrees that the programs benefit everyone. “The Locals I work with have very active apprenticeship committees with both labor and management working together,” he says. “A lot of what’s going to happen in the school comes from contractors. They see different things in the field, different technologies. It comes from the union, too. There may be a program that we develop from discussions about a market that our industry could get into. That’s the advantage of having a good working labor-management group.” This flexibility in training is another strength of joint apprenticeship programs. Jason Gerdes, program director for the ILLOWA Local 91 JATC in Rock Island explains, “The scope of work in our area is a little different in that a lot of our contractors expect apprentices to be able to do a variety of work, so we train them in several directions. Apprentices may be working for a contractor that specializes in a couple of areas and, therefore, gaining expertise while still being exposed to a variety of skills in our training program. This will open up possibilities to work with a broad range of contractors in the future.” Tyler Pfanz earned his journeyperson’s ticket two years ago through Local 1, but it took him a while to find his calling in the
Joe Cook, Business Manager at Local 219
sheet metal industry. “I started out of high school working in a factory,” he says. “I knew college and that sort of structured environment wasn’t for me, but the monotony of the job was burning me out. I had a couple of buddies whose dads worked in the mechanical industry—what they told me piqued my interest, and I decided to pursue something in that direction.”
Pfanz adds that the main draw to the sheet metal industry is the variety—individuals may be working on the tools or as a service technician, but expanding one’s education is simple given there are always instructors on hand or new courses to take that help members of the workforce expand their skillsets. “The work can be demanding,” he says. “You do a lot of problem-solving, interacting with like-minded people towards a goal, and with other trades on big projects. You have to be willing to work, but the rewards are there.” Those rewards include excellent healthcare and a pension— both increasingly rare benefits in today’s marketplace. Joe Cook, business manager at Local 219, believes the joint apprenticeship programs will soon be in great demand as young people realize all that the unions have to offer beyond the good wages and job satisfaction. “When we talk to kids going to college, they aren’t thinking about health insurance or pensions, but those things are becoming a highly-sought commodity these days,” he says. Local 219 had 100 applicants this year, and the 47% who passed are highly educated college recruits whose parents supported their decision to pursue a skilled trade. “We’re also seeing college grads who have already spent $60,000 to go to post-secondary school applying for apprenticeships,” Cook says. “They are willing to take a first year apprenticeship job and commit to five years just to be able to pay off their tuition debt and have a good career that they can’t get with a bachelor’s degree.” From her desk in Calgary Alberta, Deb Smith writes for trade and business publications across North America, specializing in profiles and stories within the hospitality, food service, mining, recreation, and construction industries. When not writing, she’s likely traveling, gardening, or taking long walks with her big white dog. Partners in Progress » April 2020 » 15