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PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

August 2019

Are you a SMACNA-SMART brand ambassador?

PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together




This photo is among those available to registered users at Photo courtesy of SMACNA-SMART Market Expansion Task Force.

POINT ONE MEDIA INC. Creative Services

Augusst 2019 - Volume 13, Number 8

ERIC WESTBROOK Cover Illustrator

3 LOOKING FORWARD  Changing the status quo of cooperation will inspire a new generation of

Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund.


tradespeople and contractors to carry the momentum into the future.

4 CALLING BRAND AMBASSADORS  The SMACNA-SMART Market Expansion Task Force has launched its #MJMG recruitment campaign and needs the best in our industry to make it a success.



metal industry.

Contractors and labor come together to lobby for best practices in the sheet


Poynter Sheet Metal Inc. and Local 20 Indiana undertand the importance of

Find Partners in Progress online at or at partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email

mentorship programs in ensuring a brighter future for all.


All contents ©2019 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211.

Q&A with Professor Robert Van Til shows lean should improve efficiency while enhancing and protecting the laborforce.


 Strong relationships between public school career centers, SMACNA chapters, and Locals bring recruiting opportunities never before imagined.

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


Forward The best efforts are actions. We can talk and learn and share and explain, but unless we put our knowledge and efforts into practice, the best efforts die on the vine. That’s why being open and honest, taking risks, and putting the greater good first, are so important. Of course, that can be difficult if it means an abrupt change to the status quo. The signatory sheet metal industry is working hard to change the status quo and make it easier to confront the issues that stand in the way of cooperation. The most direct way to do that is to ensure young people entering the industry come to it with a fresh perspective. When recruitment efforts stem from thier wishes and needs, they will respond. When they see first hand what a rewarding career looks like, they will tell others. And when cooperative relationships form the basis of their success, they will carry that torch into the future. It isn’t always easy. Affecting an entire generation means those who came before have to be vulnerable and open up to new ways of thinking. It means reconciling the value in traditional knowledge with the opportunities inherent in progress. It can be done and the sheet metal industry is in many ways leading the way. This issue points to the overwhelming success brought about by labor and management partnerships in thinking ahead to address issues affecting the industry now and in the future. The SMANCA-SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force has launched its first campaign aimed at reaching young people who personify the ideal sheet metal worker and who can take an authentic message to social media. The program is built around feedback from apprentices about what they want, what they wish they’d known, and what they think their future colleagues will want. This holistic approach is bound to make it a success. Read all about the first campaign on page 4. The signatory sheet metal industry’s presence in the political realm makes it stand out as an authority and commanding presence in the construction industry. Contributing to that image are successful lobby relationships between contractors and unions willing to take the high road and find common ground. It isn’t always easy, and it is almost never clear from the get-go, but it is almost always the right thing to do. Find out why on page 8. Throughout history, mentorship has bridged the gap between new and experienced tradespersons, ensuring a secure future for skilled knowledge and facilitating a hands-on, practical teaching and learning environment. North America’s labor shortage has conjured the resurgence of mentorship programs that offer a platform for passing the baton in the construction trades. Poynter Sheet Metal in Indiana and Local 20 have developed a mentorship program that covers soft skills along with the trade essentials,


ensuring a solid future for the industry and thinking ahead to the next ten years and beyond. See how they did it on page 10. SMACNA and Local 36 in Missouri have taken school recruitment a step further with articulation agreements SMACNA and SMART build with career centers in that together with new LEED offerings from USGBC in 2019 locale. The agreements Futures Study allow transference of 2020 PINP Conference Safety Means Success high school cources in sheet metal towards apprenticeships, provided students achieve a specific grade point average. The agreement is a win for everyone and open students up to a whole new world of career possibility in trades. Check it out on page 14. Finally, Oakland University Professor Robert Van Til, who specializes in Lean Studies, tells Partners in Progress how implementing lean practices can support, enhance, and inspire the workforce while helping contractors meet today’s demand for efficiency, productivity, and positive workplace culture. Read more on page 13. The 2020 Partners in Progress Conference will offer many opportunities and learning sessions from which to take action, make the first steps, and conquer the difficult questions in the pursuit of a brighter future for all. Keep an eye on these pages for registration information and the Strive to Success Challenge. Mark your calendar for Feb. 25-26, 2020. If you are a contractor, consider bringing an apprentice along, and if you are a Local representative, think about attending with a contractor in your region. (See the January 2019 issue at issuu. com/partnersinprogress/docs/pinp_jan19_final_hires page 8 for examples of this.) What have you got to lose? ▪ SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together

January 2019

Follow Partners in Progress and Save the Date Feb. 25-26, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada Follow Partners in Progress magazine for more about emerging markets, market recovery opportunities, projects fueled by partnership, and opportunities to keep the workforce strong. The 2020 Partners in Progress Conference will also showcase these ideas under the theme All In. Visit to keep up to date and find useful resources available to SMART locals, SMACNA contractors and chapters, labor management cooperation trusts and committees, training centers, and individual members of SMACNA and SMART. Registration is required for full access to all resources. It is free but limited to members. You can also find us on Facebook as “sheetmetalpartners”, on Twitter as “smpartners”, and on Instagram as “smpartners”. Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 3

CALLING BRAND AMBASSADORS SMACNA-SMART Market Expansion Task Force Calls the Industry’s Best to the Frontlines of Social Media #MJMG

By / Jessica Kirby Photos courtesy of South East Washington North East Oregon Sheet Metal Training Trust and SMACNA Social media’s refurbishing of the advertising landscape has changed the way businesses and organizations promote their offerings and effectively reach a viable market. Its ascension to omnipotence has triggered an over-saturation of the information market where brand creation and promotion are only a few clicks away from just about any fingertip, making it difficult for the average consumer to garner meaningful information about what has genuine value. While overwhelming in some ways, this abundance has also demanded a return to the basics— personal stories, recommendations, and first-hand reviews—as key determinants of quality. So what does this mean for the signatory sheet metal industry? Looking at North America’s labor shortage, it can 4 » Partners in Progress »

mean a great deal in terms of recruitment. Young people are graduating every day and making decisions about their futures. As with any other entity leveraging the online consumer market, the challenge is standing out among the onslaught in a genuine, meaningful way. The SMACNA/SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force has launched a recruitment initiative that seeks to do exactly that. The Brand Ambassador program—which already completed the pilot stage in Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Portland, and Austin—uses an evidence-based approach to attract new recruits to the sheet metal trade, leveraging research collected surveying apprentices in their first, second, third, and final years of training. It will be available to all members this fall.

The approach is simple—contractors, training centers, and instructors can identify apprentices and journeypersons in their communities that are models of “best of breed,” and might be active on social media. These “brand ambassadors” should typify the sort of individuals they would like to see more of in the industry. Ambassadors will be encouraged to take to the frontlines of social media promoting various aspects of the sheet metal trade. Jerry Henderson, chapter executive with SMACNA Oregon and Southwest Washington, says his locale is ideal for running the pilot program because it has had its eye on a joint marketing campaign, similar to what NECA-IBEW started in 2014. “Locally, we’ve had a joint agreement between the union, training center, and the chapter to employ various marketing campaigns, but they are costly to develop on our own and our resources are limited,” he says. “Every area in the country is also doing their own thing with no focused effort on building a national SMACNASMART brand. It would make sense to get everyone pulling on the rope in the same direction, and personally I’m hoping this is just the first step.” Shyanne Sarris is a social media intern SMACNA Oregon and SW Washington. She says the association is hoping that the Brand Ambassador program will help spread the news about our four-year, debt-free degree program to people searching for new vocation options. “Many men and women are unaware that a successful alternative to attending university exists,” Sarris says. “The trade industry not only pays its workers well, but also it provides apprentices with a fulfilling and meaningful career at little to no cost.”

Ideal ambassadors

Paul Pimentel, who heads up research and communications activities for SMART, says a “brand ambassador” is someone who goes above and beyond and can uniquely communicate his or her positive contribution to the sheet metal industry. Ambassadors demonstrate members’ skill, pride, and craftspersonship and the high standards consistent in the unionized sheet metal industry. “We represent contractors and members that are a cut above the rest, and we should not be shy about making it known,” Pimentel says. Fulfilling this mission means standing out and making an impact bigger than the every day work. “We all want to leave the world we inherit better than how we came into it,” Pimentel says. “This is how we recognize people who have made a positive mark and hold them up as examples to be followed. Brand ambassadors are the best among us, the ones who industry stakeholders look to as pioneers. They have the ability to blaze a path forward for women, lead a campaign against safety issues on a non-union job site, or be an example of our strong union work ethic.”

Watch for information about an upcoming webinar that will introduce the Industrial Athlete program nationally.

Living by example

Pimentel says Ursela Gaskill, journeyperson sheet metal worker and shop steward at Total Energy Management in Richland, Washington, is an example of an ideal brand ambassador. Gaskill has been with the company for seven years total, and prior to that she completed a two-year technical degree in welding followed by a five-year apprenticeship program. Her time in the industry has had its challenges, but the trade’s diversity and the leadership opportunities have been rewarding. “I love the work and the difficulty of being a female making it in my shop and industry,” Gaskill says. “The most challenging for me has been the drive to make it to the top, because like it or not, men sometimes don’t want women to be the boss or to tell them what to do. Getting to a lead position can be challenging.” Any resistance she felt in the beginning of her career has only made Gaskill work harder to be part of the solution. She routinely visits schools, colleges, and tradeshows, talking to youth about a successful career in sheet metal and how much her career means to her. “I want others, especially women, to be as successful as I am,” Gaskill says. “My union and trade have changed my life and made me a very successful individual, and I want that for more people.” Pimentel says role models are important on many levels and can be a light in dark times, particularly with younger workers who need help seeing the way forward. “Anecdotal examples have a big cumulative impact,” he says. “It’s important for a young member who is just starting off in the industry—let’s say a female sheet metal worker or an African American worker—to see others who were in a similar situation and who succeeded in overcoming their challenges. They are an inspiration.” Gaskill says she made some poor decisions in high school, ended up using drugs and went to prison. While she was there, Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 5

Calling Brand Ambassadors

Ursela Gaskill works hard to promote the trade to youth, making her an ideal brand ambassador for the sheet metal trade.

she completed a treatment program and received her GED. Once released, she was determined to be successful and change her whole lifestyle. With help from her dad, she was working full time and attending college with in months and has never looked back. “I never thought that I would be where I am now, because of my past,” Gaskill says. “I have some charges on my record and a GED rather than a diploma. But I was accepted into my hall and never questioned about it.” Then-coordinator Ken Cox, someone she considers an important mentor in her journey, was key in supporting her as she rose to each challenge. “He saw something in me from the beginning and pushed me to be the best,” Gaskill says. “I proudly represent my hall because of him and so many.” She would like young people considering a career in trades to know there is never a better time but the present to jump in and get started making their career goals a reality. “Don’t put it off,” Gaskill says. “Go down to any Local and put your name on the list. It’s easy, and the construction industry is busy with work. I never thought I could be so successful and have an amazing life and future. I want this life for everyone—women, men, individuals wanting to change their lives and become good people. The union will do that for you.”

ONLINE CONSUMER TRUST Studies involving online consumer habits have found that 90% of people searching for programs and products online trust peer recommendations, and user-generated content is deemed 50% more trustworthy than traditional media. Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals, and 81% of American consumers trust advice and information from blogs. Most importantly, 9 out of 10 people trust recommendations from within their networks. ▪ 6 » Partners in Progress »

Ambassadors can promote the Indistrial Athlete campaign with photos and selfies using #MJMG My Job is My Gym (see the shirt).

Industry research

The SMACNA/SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force recruiting initiative surveyed 1,459 apprentices to find out where they learned about a career in sheet metal, how they would suggest improving recruitment efforts, and whether they would recommend the trade to others. Of those, 1,209 learned of the trade from family and friends, 95 received the information from a school counselor, 72 from social media, and 52 from job fairs. The remaining few were inspired by radio, TV, and newspaper ads. They gave nearly equal consideration to wages, training, health care, and retirement benefits (in that order) when deciding on a career in sheet metal, and listed social media (70%), supporting school counselors (56%), and support for non-print media ads and websites (52%) as the best ways to reach new recruits. In addition, 94% percent said they would recommend the trade to others. Brand ambassador program materials focus on these areas and promote the items apprentices said they wished they’d known about the trade before entering, such as variety of work, diversity in the trade, earning college credit, continuing education, and leadership opportunities. Lisa Bordeaux, consultant to the SMACNA/SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force and an expert in recruitment efforts aimed at young people, said the Brand Ambassador program’s first campaign is aimed at promoting the Industrial Athlete aspects of the work.

Being active is a big draw to the trades for some recruits. The Industrial Athlete campaign focuses on the athletic aspects of sheet metal work.

“Not having to sit at a desk and is an important benefit for some,” Bordeaux says. “With that in mind, the first campaign is ‘My Job is My Gym’, promoting the athletic component of the sheet metal trade.” Apprentices with a flair for social media are encouraged to post photos and selfies with the hashtag #MJMG on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, vying for two monthly top prizes ($100 at Amazon): one for best photo and the other for most likes. (Order a t-shirt to help promote the campaign.) The Task Force will track the results on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. “As a result of interest and feedback, we will customize and provide resources—flyers for counselors and t-shirts to share with friends and family on social media,” Bordeaux says. Handouts and flyers will be available to contractors, chapters, local unions, and JATCs, and can be customized for each region. SMACNA and SMART will also be emailing and sharing these resources with high school and middle school guidance counselors. The pilot was the beginning of a multi-year initiative starting this fall that will evolve based on user feedback and will capitalize on successes. “The first of the recruiting components was rolled out to locations where the training directors had expressed a strong need for support due to work shortages,” Bordeaux says. “We are refining based on their feedback before we roll it out nationally.” For additional program information, contact Paul Pimentel or Jason Watson jwatson@ Program feedback and suggestions can go to Lisa Bordeaux at ▪ Jessica Kirby is a freelance editor and writer covering construction, architecture, mining, travel, and sustainable living for myriad publications across Canada and the United States. She can usually be found among piles of paper in her home office or exploring nature’s bounty in British Columbia’s incredible wilderness.

Brand Ambassadors vs Brand Influencers: What’s the difference? Brand ambassadors and brand influencers sound a lot alike and they are, but there are some important differences in these roles, their qualities, and the purposes they serve. Brand ambassadors and influencers have some important things in common: they are both chosen for their authority on a brand, in a field, or over an audience. They achieve the same end for brands—sharing that brand with audiences to create new customers or users. Both create content and share it genuinely and in their own voices without it sounding like a sales pitch, and both are tasked first and foremost with building trust with new and potential customers or users. But, it is the differences between ambassadors and influencers that will help you decide which is the best fit for your brand. Think of brand ambassadors as an organization’s ideal user. They are invested, engaged, and authentic fans of the item or program they are promoting, and they promote it because they truly believe in it and wish to share its benefits with others. They use word of mouth, testimonials, and anecdotal conversation to relay a genuine message others can relate to because they are building trust with firsthand experience. Relationships between ambassadors and the brands they promote are long-term, and they are chosen on the basis of their existing love of the brand. Brand influencers usually have a far reach by way of social media followers, but their approach to promotion is different: they show their audiences how a product or program works, usually once or twice, and always for a fee (monetary or otherwise). Influencers might be celebrities or just people with a high volume of followers that are relevant to your program, and they use demonstrations, presentations, and program-specific posts about the brand if it stands out to them. They build trust by only promoting items that stand out to them, and in this way an influencer can become an ambassador if the product or program has enough appeal. Relationships with influencers are generally short term, and the influencer is chosen for his or her ability to reach the intended audience. ▪ Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 7

One Voice, One Goal:

Setting aside differences to lobby for the greater good. By Natalie Bruckner Chistopher Walker, executive vice president with CAL SMACNA, and Dion Abril, executive administrator for SMART Western States Council, promoted the sale of school bonds together on the steps of the State Capitol. Photo courtesy of CAL SMACNA.

There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.” In many ways this perfectly sums up the role of lobbying. While the term “lobbying” may conjure some negative connotations, there’s no denying that lobbying for good can make a substantive, positive difference to industry and people. “Lobbying has resulted in a number of positive changes to our industry,” explains Michael Coleman, business manager and president of Local 33. “We successfully stopped the Right-towork legislation, successfully stopped the repeal for Prevailing Wage law that effectively removes labor wages and benefits from the competitive bidding process on public works projects, and stopped an energy bill that would have relaxed the standards for energy efficiency. We were able to pass a Contractor Licensing bill that made it harder for people to do work who didn’t have the appropriate licenses, and probably the biggest success is the Fire Life Safety legislation.” Indeed, the Fire Life Safety legislation (SB 143) is a perfect example of how effective lobbying can make such a profound change that it could effectively save lives. SB 143, signed by Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham earlier this year, makes New Mexico the first state in the nation to ensure that fire and smoke dampers and smoke control systems are properly tested and inspected in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards. 8 » Partners in Progress »

Making these kinds of changes at the government level isn’t easy. When individuals and groups don’t agree on everything, lobbying can be challenging because it requires everyone to be on the same page and present a united front. “The key is not to get bogged down in the small things and instead keep your eyes on the horizon and work together,” says Christopher Walker, executive vice president for CAL SMACNA. “It is too easy to swerve off our objectives by the few things we may not agree on. We cannot let them get in the way of our focus.” Dion Abril, executive administrator for SMART Western States Council, agrees with Walker, and says ironing out any creases before going in front of lawmakers is essential. “Because I am not involved in any labor-management negotiations, I can use that to our benefit.” When Abril attends union meetings he observes the room and can see when something isn’t popular just by the reactions on people’s faces. “It just takes some emotional intelligence,” he says. “If we don’t sort this out before we attend city council meetings or present in front of the Energy Commission, they will see this, too. It shows our cards. We need to ensure we come together as one to effect change at the higher level.”

Collaborative relationships between SMACNA contractors and SMART craftspersons have improved dramatically over the years. “Negative press and perception are certainly the most difficult hurdles to get over, and the only way to do that is to show we are working together and that we are on the same page,” Coleman says. “Yes, perceptions can be damaging, but this hurdle is not insurmountable. It just takes patience and perseverance.” Since Coleman entered the industry 35 years ago as a sheet metal worker, and particularly since he was elected an official in 1999, he has seen a dramatic change. “Today, it’s far easier to lobby together as the union and employers. We all understand we either sink or swim together. We can put aside our differences and focus on things that benefit the industry.” Walker echoes Coleman’s sentiments and says that in California, labor-management lobbying has been improving. “There has been a marked improvement over the past several years because we have a common sense of purpose and a desire to protect our future in a rapidly changing marketplace,” he says. However, this kind of change didn’t happen overnight. Thomas E. Martin, SMACNA Cleveland president, explains that these relationships, like any relationship, require hard work and dedication. He says that at the root of everything there must be trust. Coleman, Abril, and Walker all agree. “To build trust you have to stay in touch daily,” says Walker. “I work with labor and their attorneys. We have regular conference calls, and we do a ton of face-to-face meetings.” Abril adds that it takes a lot of coordination and effort to make it work. “You are dealing with a lot of personalities, and meetings allow you to build those blocks accordingly,” he says. When Abril came to California from Arizona in 2015, he had the opportunity to start fresh. “I didn’t know the past relationship, so I took advantage of that and reached out and chatted with Chris Walker, my counterpart,” he says. “We started talking, and our relationship grew. We realized that though we disagreed on some little things, there were far more that we agreed on.” Having a strong foundation is the integral starting block when it comes to successful lobbying. Education, or lack thereof, can lead to bad decisions and a “no” vote on a bill that would, in fact, benefit everyone. Over the past few years, SMACNA and SMART have been actively trying to educate politicians, firefighters, and the general public so they can get a better handle on the industry and its challenges. “We start with basic education, such as training center tours and demonstrations on fire dampers,” Coleman says. “We teach them how important it is, not just to our industry, but also to people in general.” He has found that presenting the facts with a focus on public safety is far more effective than making it a union or non-union issue.

“That is the recipe to success: Similar people who are willing to put their egos away and persevere with just one goal in mind: the future of the industry.” —Dion Abril, executive administrator for SMART Western States Council “We get the contractors involved any time we have any group of people in, whether it’s the governor or state fire marshal, and we show them we work in partnership, which makes it easier for them to believe what we are saying,” Coleman says. He adds that politicians need to understand that SMART and SMACNA members are in their corner and not going anywhere. “Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. We don’t identify them as one or the other now. It is about whether they are pro-labor or anti-labor. We have plenty of Republicans that are pro-labour in the state of Ohio because we take the time to educate them and take them on training tours. The only reason we still have prevailing wage and no right-to-work is because of Republican support.” Indeed, successful lobbying is a constant education and one Coleman, Walker, Abril, and Martin don’t take for granted, because for every success there are failures, and the failures are where the biggest lessons are learned. “I would say one of our biggest successes, the Building Energy Efficiency Standards – Title 24, is also one of our biggest failures,” Abril says. “During that process, we got a chance to practice getting along and working on something that provides an opportunity for both labor and management. It has been going on for years, and the last couple of years our combined work has brought us here quicker, but we had to learn a lot about communication during that time.” As SMACNA and SMART in California now set their sights on enacting new standards for carbon dioxide monitoring and ventilation in schools and West Virginia continues to battle with anti-labour politicians over the HVC Licensing bill, there continues to be a lot of work ahead. However, there does seem to be a basic formula to successful lobbying. “You will hear a lot of the same verbiage from all of us, and that is the recipe to success,” Abril says. “People who are willing to put their egos away and persevere with just one goal in mind: the future of the industry. So often there is too much focus on the word lobbying, but in the end, it’s really about safety and human comfort.” ▪ 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 » August 2019 » 9

Mentorship Initiatives BRIDGE THE GAP By Don Procter  Photo courtesy of Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, Indiana Sheet metal contractors across the United States and Canada are increasingly facing a common problem: how to replace key experienced people nearing retirement. “Around here, you need to build up your workforce because in the next five years you are going to have a mass exodus,” says Jason Benson, apprenticeship coordinator for Local 20 in Indiana. “If 10 guys are retiring, you need to bring on at least 15 new ones.” Benson, who echoes the sentiments many Locals are feeling, says that just because construction activity is healthy now, it doesn’t mean contractors should ignore what is coming. He believes that it is an opportune time for contractors to take a serious stab at a mentorship initiative. Joseph Lansdell, president of one of the largest sheet metal contractors in Indiana, Poynter Sheet Metal, Inc., agrees. Contractors with mentorship programs, like Poynter has, have some security that the next generation of workers will be up to the task of leadership, he says. But most contractors don’t think that way, says Lansdell, who was SMACNA president from 2016 to 2017. “Through my SMACNA relationship I have not heard about a lot of mentor/mentee relationships in construction.” That has to change—soon—in part because sheet metal contractors are increasingly seeing older workers move into shop supervisory roles. Replacing those positions in the next five years will become a challenge for any contractor not teaching soft skills to fast-rising workers. Poynter offers its young workers a six-month mentorship program. Now in its fourth year, the program puts workers in a monthly class for five hours to help them understand seminal 10 » Partners in Progress »

industry topics, such as specifications, bid documents, and contract drawings, says Nathan Shinkle, a project manager who leads Poynter’s mentorship program. Poynter’s mentorship program covers things like scheduling. “We try to teach them to look four to six weeks ahead,” he says. “With material lead times these days from vendors, suppliers, and your own organization, the bigger you grow, the longer it takes to get something out.” Poynter uses various staff for instructors, based on their experience with the subject matter of the class. “We need to teach them foreman 101 and also teach them the way we do business,” Shinkle says. Time management, diplomacy, and communications skills are other topics. Based in Greenwood, on the southern fringe of the Indianapolis metropolitan area, Poynter has more than 460 employees. The company performs work in Indiana and slices of Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. Of the 35 employees who have taken Poynter’s mentorship program, most have gone on to supervisory roles such as foremen. One graduate who had never run a job prior to entering the mentorship program recently supervised one of Poynter’s highest profile projects. Shinkle adds that while the size of a company shouldn’t change the need for mentorship and education programs, small contractors might have the most to gain because they often have more employees with key decision-making responsibilities. “A larger company can stub its toe on one or two (bad) decisions without a ripple effect.” Another mentorship initiative at Poynter is the Apprenticeship Contractor School (ACS). It is geared to third-year apprentices

“I think Poynter’s mentoring program gives apprentices a goal that shows it is not just a job but a career where they can advance to become a journeyman, detailer, estimator, shop foreman, or shop owner.” — Jason Benson, apprenticeship coordinator, Local 20

in central Indiana who are signatory to Local 20 and is mandatory for all apprentices in the Local. In its fifth year, it covers soft skills such as setting personal, career, and financial goals, says Lansdell, who is head instructor at the school. Also covered in the school are project management, estimating, CAD, and even company ownership skills. Taught over two eight-hour periods, the course includes an estimating competition. “We do a private bid opening in class,” Lansdell says. “Local 20 JATC instructors attend a lunch-and-learn session to tell the young apprentices about their experiences.” Poynter provides training and classroom facilities for free at ACS. Lansdell sees it as a sound investment because it increases the knowledge base of the next generation of workers. Plus, it allows him to get to know each apprentice in the area. As SMACNA national president two years ago Lansdell met many contractors across the United States who were concerned about impending labor shortages. It was a big motivator for how the curriculum for the ACS evolved. At Local 20, Benson says the contractor school is an eyeopening experience for apprentices and, ultimately, will advance the industry. “It is why we at Local 20 have taken the school model statewide,” he says. He believes Poynter’s results are clear evidence of the program’s value. “They are probably in the forefront of mentorship programs in our Local. They assign mentors to apprentices, they promote from within, and they build these guys up through their five years of apprenticeship.” Benson, who is unaware of any other Locals doing similar contractor schools in the United States, says that before apprentices head to ACS at Poynter, they are introduced at

Local 20 to costing, bidding, project management, and foreman training. “It gives them a heads up on what they are getting into at Poynter,” he says. According to Benson, tight margins and the shrinking skilled worker pool are reasons progressive contractors today put a high value on developing apprentices to become the next generation of leaders. He did not see that as a priority a decade or two ago when apprentices were directed to keep their heads down and do what they were told. “I think Poynter’s mentoring program gives apprentices a goal that shows it is not just a job, but rather a career where they can advance to become a journeyman, detailer, estimator, shop foreman, or shop owner,” he says. “From a contractor’s and even a union’s point of view, you can’t wait until that guy retires. You have to be planning five or ten years in advance.” Local 20 is also considering future changes. One possibility is developing a leadership council over the next few years. This is where apprentices would be introduced to employment opportunities at the union, such as business agents, business managers, organizers, and instructors. “We want to make sure everything is in place for down the road when we retire,” Benson says. Lansdell says if other contractors haven’t already addressed the growing gap of skilled workers both in the field and the shop, they need to start immediately or they may miss their window. At the very least, Lansdell says, it’s worthwhile for contractors and Locals to consider the mentorship aspect of the collective bargaining agreement that stipulates every apprentice do a six-month rotation twice during their apprenticeship to gain a better understanding of work both in the field and the shop. “It is an effort to turn out well-rounded apprentices,” he says. ▪ A freelance writer based in Toronto, Don Procter covers the building, design and planning industries in Canada and the United States. Away from the office, his pursuits include the ongoing restoration of his centuries-old home, cooking for family, and playing in a blues band. Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 11

Cooperation for Lean Q&A with Professor Robert Van Til, professor of Lean Studies, Oakland University By / Jordan Whitehouse Photos courtesy of Oakland University For some, the term “lean manufacturing” is an innocuous one describing techniques that cut waste in a production system. For others, however, it strikes a more fearful note, denoting the elimination of jobs. But is that really true? Does lean imply that jobs are at risk? Not if decision-makers are doing it right, says Tracy O’Rourke, a lean instructor at UC San Diego and San Diego State University. “Lean is not about getting rid of people; it’s about getting rid of waste,” she wrote in a recent article. “People are an organization’s most valuable asset. Employees are not a waste, but often their time is spent on wasteful activities.” Robert Van Til agrees. He’s a professor of Lean Studies at Oakland University. Use lean to fire people, he’s said, and you not only lose your most valuable asset, but also the buy-in from those who are left. Simply put, says Van Til, lean is a good thing for sheet metal contractors because it can lead to improved efficiency and lowering costs. For craftspersons, it can mean more ownership 12 » Partners in Progress »

of their work,” Van Til says. “In a true lean environment, everyone’s input is valued, and improved performance of the business will result in a more stable job.” We recently caught up with Professor Van Til to hear more of his thoughts on lean manufacturing—what it looks like, what its challenges are, and how labor and management can work together to make it happen successfully. Here’s what he had to say.

Let’s start with some basics. Are there lean practices specific to sheet metal manufacturing?

Actually, there are not specific lean practices for any business. But each business will find more or less value in applying various lean techniques and tools. At its heart, lean is about developing and maintaining a company culture in which everyone contributes to serving the customer. If what you are doing doesn’t serve a customer, such as making a product the customer wants to buy, reducing the price while maintaining or improving quality, providing better customer service, or

Robert Van Til, professor of Lean Studies at Oakland University, teaches students that lean is not about job reductions but rather about developing a business culture where everyone contributes to improving customer satisfaction.

complying with regulations to ensure a safe product, etc.—then you need to question why you are doing it. And “a customer” is not just defined as a person or company buying your product. A machine operator is a customer of your maintenance team.

So in a practical sense what would lean techniques look like within a sheet metal manufacturing system?

changes overnight. Small improvements over time lead to more and bigger improvements. Fad diets can have great shortterm results, but then old habits kick in and the weight comes back. Like long-term health improvement, developing and maintaining a lean culture requires a change in lifestyle.

What about the challenge of overcoming the association Pretty much like they would in any other manufacturing between lean and job losses? How can that be done?

system—operators, supervisors, maintenance personnel, and anyone else involved in the system working together to identify things that do not add value and trying to eliminate them. But you need to do this on a systems level with everyone involved. It’s easy to see faults in individual components of a system and try to improve them, with the result being no improved performance of the system itself. Most people have experienced some type of system where most of the individual processes work well, but there are long waiting times between the processes. For example, you have a long wait to check in, but the check-in process works well once you get there. You then move from check-in to the next process, and arrive at it after another long wait only to find the next process also works well. An important part of lean is making changes that result in improving system performance.  

This is where top management buy-in is a must. Unfortunately, there have been many times when the title of “lean” was used to try to justify job reductions. This is not what lean is about. It’s about developing a business culture where everyone contributes to improving customer satisfaction. How do you get that buy-in so that management and labor are working together to get the benefits of lean? It’s up to management to develop—and maintain—a lean culture. To me, that’s what it will take to get labor buyin. It can be done. I’ve seen many companies where it’s happening. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen many companies where management’s determination to develop or maintain a lean culture just wasn’t complete and the company went back to the old way of doing business with everyone complaining about the “flavor of the month” syndrome.

Getting the business culture right. Being an engineer, this is a tough one for me. But top management has to make the culture right and maintain it. Start with small projects, give everyone the time to learn lean techniques and tools, and celebrate successes.

Lean alone will not necessarily result in continuing success for a business. You still need innovation as well as the ability to identify and respond to disruption. However, having a true lean culture—with all employees contributing ideas to improving performance and customer satisfaction—is an excellent foundation for encouraging innovation. ▪

What are some of the keys to implementing successful lean practices?

What are the big challenges associated with implementing lean?

Staying the course. Getting management to truly lead the transformation and maintain it. Also, not expecting big

Obviously lean isn’t a cure-all. But why is it as important as you say it is?

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. Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 13

ARTICULATION AGREEMENTS Strong Relationships with Public Schools Bring Recruiting Opportunities for Contractors and Locals By / Sheralyn Belyeu • Photos courtesy of Nichols Career Center Sheet metal professionals in central Missouri have built relationships with school officials at all levels of the school system, opening up recruitment options Local 36 could not have imagined. The JATC has signed articulation agreements with high school career centers in three communities and is finalizing a similar agreement with Missouri State Tech. Typically, an articulation agreement allows students to use the classes they take at one institution for credit at a different college or university. In this case, instead of transferring credit for math or English courses, these articulation agreements help young people start sheet metal apprenticeships before they even graduate. Students at participating career centers can earn up to 500 hours of credit at the JATC for classes they take in high school. Students must earn high grades in order to receive the maximum credit.

Those high grades are key to the program’s popularity with school officials. In 2008, Russ Unger, apprentice coordinator for Local 36, was on a routine recruiting visit to the Columbia Career Center in Columbia, Missouri. School leaders pointed out that the teens would work harder in class if they could see a direct connection to their future pay. They offered to set up an articulation agreement with Local 36. Unger saw that he could help teachers out and build Local 36 at the same time. “I took the idea to our business agent, and he had no problem with it,” Unger says. “We came up with some hours, and the career center agreed.” A student who earns As in all of the HVAC classes offered at Columbia Career Center can receive 500 hours of credit at the JATC. A student who earns Bs in the same classes will receive 400 hours of credit.

Back row from left to right: Cody Bayshore, director of Nichols Career Center; Craig Strope, HVAC instructor at Nichols Career Center; Russ Unger, apprentice coordinator; and Jake Crismon, director of marketing. Front row: Nichols Career Center students.

Unger expanded the program over the next ten years, signing similar agreements with the Hart Career Center in Mexico, Missouri, and the Nichols Career Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. “Nichols Career Center serves a large area,” explains Jake Crismon, director of marketing for Local 36. “It’s across the street from Jefferson City High School, but smaller public schools send students there as well. They bus them in so more teens can participate in the program. The sheet metal classes are always full.” The articulation agreement with Nichols Career Center made Jefferson City’s newspaper this spring. “We can’t believe how much publicity the agreement is bringing us,” Unger says. Thousands of people who have never thought about sheet metal read the News Tribune article, learning about industry wages and how Local 36 helps young people move into solid careers. Local 36 is grateful for the opportunity to educate the public about the sheet metal industry, but for future recruitment, strengthening relationships with school leaders is even more important than a good newspaper article. Historically, many school leaders have not been aware of career opportunities in the trades, so they believed all students needed to prepare for college. Robby Miller, president of SMACNA Central Missouri Chapter, served on the Mexico school board for several years. While on the school board, Miller saw the costs of neglecting the trades. “Many students aren’t interested in college,” he says. “Those kids can get lost in the system and end up without a career. Most of them are not aware that they can make a good living working with their hands. Exposing students to the building trades early is critical for helping them choose the trades as a career.” Because the JATC has closer ties with the public schools, school leaders are learning that they can trust Unger to prepare kids for success. “Now the career centers in Missouri are directing more high school-aged kids to the trades,” Unger says. “They are letting them know about the options.” Missouri State Tech Harvey Buhr, president and owner of Industrial Enterprises Incorporated in Jefferson City, Missouri, saw an opportunity to expand the articulation program into Missouri’s college system. Buhr works closely with Missouri State Tech as a member of their drafting advisory board. “I’ve been on advisory boards for State Tech for years, so I know faculty members in all of the building trades,” he says. “I wanted to see a partnership between the JATC and State Tech, so I invited the faculty to meet with a union rep.” Thanks to Buhr’s initiative, State Tech is now finalizing articulation agreements in HVAC, welding, and drafting. “I think articulation agreements help all of us,” says Ben Berhorst, State Tech department chair for HVAC Technology

Students working in the Nichols Career Center’s HVAC class are motivated by a connection between grades and future pay.

and Industrial Electricity. “It helps the union connect with young people, and it helps me recruit new students when I visit schools.” He recently doubled the size of State Tech’s HVAC program to meet industry needs. “I have no problems placing my graduates,” Berhorst says. “Graduation doesn’t guarantee anyone a job,” Buhr says. “They have to pass the same rigorous test everyone takes to be accepted as apprentices. But State Tech graduates have already dedicated two years to learning the skills. They tend to have the solid work habits and good attendance records that will help them succeed in the sheet metal industry.” Depending on their grades, State Tech students will be able to earn up to 2,000 hours of JATC credit. Like high school officials, Berhorst is enthusiastic about the added incentive for students. “I think it’s going to make the cream rise to the top in the classroom,” he says. “I see the students pushing themselves a little harder to get the maximum bang for their bucks.” ▪ A Colorado native, Sheralyn Belyeu lives and writes deep in the woods of Alabama. When she’s not writing, she grows organic blueberries and corrects misspellings of her name. Partners in Progress » August 2019 » 15

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