PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMARTâ€”Building a Future Together
Cooperation, mentorship, and know-how transcend age and reach across generations
PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together
JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. ANGELA SIMON Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief
Photo credit: Derrick Green
October 2019 - Volume 13, Number 10
3 ANYTHING BUT BUSINESS AS USUAL SMACNA and SMART get creative to attract the newest and most talented apprentices to the sheet metal industry.
4 GENERATION Z GROWS UP Recruitment efforts will require new twists with Generation Z, and Milwaukee is leading the way.
MYTHS VS. REALITIES OF A SHEET METAL CAREER
career in sheet metal.
Industry professionals and apprentices name and dispell myths about a
10 CHOOSE BIGGER MARKETING CAMPAIGN FINDS ITS TARGET Labor and management in Wisconsin work together to appeal to apprentices, parents, and school counselors and attract the best in sheet metal apprentices.
12 COOPERATION IS KING
Labor-management cooperation programs inspired by last year’s Partners in Progress conference bring qualified apprentices to Local 24’s JATC and SMACNA contractors.
14 BACK TO SCHOOL
Cleveland’s School-to-Apprenticeship program is helping diversify the workforce and boost industry.
JESSICA KIRBY email@example.com Editor POINT ONE MEDIA INC. firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Services ERIC WESTBROOK Cover Illustrator
Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund. All contents ©2019 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 email@example.com.
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
Business as Usual Identifying and recruiting the top talent is top on the agenda for every industry and organization. When the competition is public and private universities, Google, Microsoft, other construction trades, and gap years, how can the sheet metal industry stand out? Especially when many people don’t even know what a sheet metal worker does? SMART and SMACNA labor-management cooperation trusts and committees across North America have been working to address this challenge by reaching out into their communities, especially into high schools and community colleges, and creating marketing materials that reach students in the spaces where they inhabit—mostly online—but also to ensure that gatekeepers such as parents and school counselors buy into the idea that a sheet metal apprenticeship will be value added to the young people they care about. In a recent visit to Wisconsin, the SMACNA-SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force saw firsthand what it means to reject business as usual and be willing to create and invest in new solutions that address the current reality. Three examples are SMACCA Milwaukee’s and Local 601’s participation in a youth apprenticeship program that is part of Wisconsin’s School-to-Work initiative; a partnership between the Milwaukee chapter and Local 18 to refurbish a long disused sheet metal classroom in a local high school and start classes for those students; and the Choose Bigger marketing campaign, which started in Wisconsin but is spreading across the country. (See stories that start on pages 4 and 10.) Wisconsin is not the only place making strides with recruiting. By combining their efforts instead of fighting at the bargaining table or in arbitration, Local 24 and SMRCA of Miami Valley have created new recruitment marketing strategies and social media initiatives. The seed for these ideas came out of the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference, and both management and labor members are looking forward to the upcoming conference to help them build upon their current successes. (See story on page 12.) Cleveland’s recruiting efforts to reach into the schools started even earlier, and Local 33’s JATC—along with local contractors—are finding that it has helped them tap deeper in the pool of qualified applicants, including those who were previously underrepresented in the industry, such as women and minorities. (See story on page 14.) Realizing that not all local areas have the resources to create their own recruitment and marketing programs from scratch, the Best Practices Task Force has brought in specialists to identify effective ways to reach Millennials and post-
Millennials (or Generation Z) and has created resources that can be customized—for FREE—to fit local requirements. School Counselor Toolkits include posters, handouts, and flyers. (See the ad on page 9.) The task force is also rolling out a series of social media campaigns that specifically target students who are looking for the types of careers that our industry offers. (Check out a webinar on the campaign in the private section of the Partners in Progress web site). The first campaign is “My Job Is My Gym”, which raises awareness of the physical nature of work in the industry as a benefit to active individuals. Order t-shirts for your apprentices and journeymen to help them get the word out to their families and friends. (Visit bit.ly/SMARTRecruit for an order form.) Any member who posts a photo or selfie to their social media channel of someone wearing the shirt—and tags the post with #MJMG—qualifies for two monthly top prizes ($100 at Amazon). Many more ideas for using cooperation to strengthen our industry—from expanding into new markets to identifying market recovery opportunities and ways to keep the workforce strong will be shared at the Partners in Progress Conference, Feb. 25-26, 2020, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Register now for the conference at pinp.org/conferences/pinp20/ to get early-bird pricing. Consider bringing along someone who has never attended or a future leader in your organization. Look for #pinp20 in social media posts and tag your own posts related to the conference. Get started now on building or strengthening your collaborative labor-management relationship and earn up to $3,000 for use towards future marketing by participating in the Strive to Succeed Challenge. All that is required is to complete a simple set of tasks before, during, and after the conference. We will maintain a leaderboard that shows how each area is progressing and recognize the efforts of participating areas. ▪ Partners in Progress » October 2019 » 3
GROWS UP By / Jordan Whitehouse
Youth are targeted as Brand Ambassadors for the sheet metal industry through the My Job is My Gym #mjmg initiative. Photo courtesy of Lisa Bordeaux.
If she didn’t know it already, Dajen Bohacek knew it by the end of 2017: text message is king for Generation Z. Earlier that year Bohacek, the associate director of SMACCA Milwaukee, helped set up a youth apprenticeship program, and part of the job was communicating with would-be high school apprentices. She found out quickly that leaving voice messages about jobs or class cancellations wouldn’t be an option. “They often don’t even set up their voicemails, and they look at you like you’re crazy if you ask them to,” she says with a laugh. It’s a small example, but generational differences like it are beginning to play out across the working world. According to research from Bloomberg, Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, will make up 32% of the global population by the end of 2019. That’s more than any other generation, including millennials. Of course, not every member of Gen Z is of working age yet—the youngest is seven, the oldest is 22—but millions of them are graduating from high school every year and trying
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to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Voicemail battles aside, one enticing option could be the trades, say a growing number of experts, including sheet metal professionals and those skilled in marketing to youth.
Opportunity knocks One of those experts is David Stillman, the co-founder of management consulting firm Gen Z Guru. He says the big thing to remember about this generation is that they came of age during the recession. “That means they’re a bit more realistic, a bit more cautious of the traditional path of going to college and going into massive debt,” Stillman says. “We know that 75% of them feel there is still a good way of getting an education other than going to college.” That doesn’t mean Gen Z isn’t going to college, but this attitude has opened the door for education alternatives that are affordable, short term, and able to generate a good salary right away.
This means they are the perfect fit for apprenticeships in the trades, particularly construction. It’s good news, since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022 one-third of all new jobs will be in construction, healthcare, and personal care. However, it can’t be recruitment as usual with Generation Z. Even those individuals who have heard of the sheet metal industry know very little about the variety of career opportunities available within the industry. “The website for every company and training center should have a big button labeled ‘Careers’ front and center explaining what it is like to work and train in the industry,” Stillman says. “It should go on to clarify that the sheet metal industry encompasses many career paths from testing, adjusting and balancing; detailing and computer-aided design; welding; estimating; supervision; and more.” Further, while members of Gen Z say they value “mentorship”, they don’t necessarily associate “apprenticeship” with the concept, warns Lisa Bordeaux, a consultant for the SMACNA and SMART Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force who has almost 20 years of experience working with the construction trades. “This peer group has the perception that apprentices are simply underlings who are treated as grunts on the job. When they learn that apprenticeship involves a mentor-mentee relationship, they are suddenly more interested.”
hurdle presents itself, we talk through it, figure out a solution, and move forward.” The result of Milwaukee’s efforts has not only generated more interest in the industry from Gen Z as a whole, but also specifically from groups not previously well-represented in the profession, including minorities and women. “Attracting the best from the community, regardless of background, race, or gender makes us stronger,” Bohacek says. “This kind of thinking appeals to members of Gen Z,” Bordeaux says. She believes that going to students and talking to them in a language they understand will open doors to be able to attract the top 20% of them into the industry. “Further, you’ll end up with a very different, very engaged, and very awesome workforce.” And that’s exactly why Bohacek uses a lot more text messages these days with young apprentices. ▪ 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.
Milwaukee bucks the trend SMACCA Milwaukee, Local 601, and several member contractors are trying to get ahead of generational divides through sponsoring a youth apprenticeship program in high schools. Part of Wisconsin’s School to Work initiative, the program allows students to simultaneously earn high school credits while receiving a paycheck for working in the field. Of the 30 students who enrolled in the program during its three years in existence, three-quarters of them subsequently applied to a trade apprenticeship program. Another initiative started two years ago at the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education, when SMACCA Milwaukee and Local 18 discovered a disused HVAC lab in the school’s basement. They helped clean it up and put it back into use. A member from Local 18 is now teaching sheet metal classes there to approximately 10 students each year. Local 18 Business Representative Stu Wilson considers the lab a resource for recruiting new apprentices. Programs like these are never without hiccups, but the strong partnership between Local 18 and SMACCA Milwaukee has allowed them to flourish. “Whenever a situation arises, we are able to resolve it quickly with a phone call,” Wilson says. Bohacek agrees. “Local 18 has been great in terms of thinking outside the box and trying new ways to solve problems. If a
High school students visit Total Mechanical to work on toolboxes, a hands-on activity that was part of a summer camp for youth. Photo courtesy of Dajen Bohacek. Partners in Progress » October 2019 » 5
MYTHS vs. REALITIES of a sheet metal career By Sheralyn Belyeu Photos by Derrick Green A recent survey found that just over a quarter of young Americans understand that graduates leave trade school with less debt than they would incur in traditional colleges. Only 11% realize that a trade school education can lead to high paying jobs, and only 16% know that trade schools can give job security. These common misunderstandings cost young people millions of dollars in unnecessary debt and missed opportunities every single year. But SMART and SMACNA are working together to spread the truth about sheet metal careers so they can build the work force they need for a strong future. Myth One: All college level classes are expensive. Reality: “College is great,” says Kris Harmon, business agent for Local 36 in central Missouri. “But traditional colleges require students to pay while they aren’t working. In a JATC, students are paid for their labor while they gain valuable skills.” Tiffany Crawford learned about education costs the hard way. She started college right out of high school with a full-ride scholarship and dreams of becoming a writer. When Crawford’s scholarship ended, she paid for a year out-of-pocket but quickly realized that continuing on a traditional path was too expensive. “Four years of college might cost $100,000, and many people can’t find work after they graduate,” she says. She decided against taking on student debt and dropped out of school. A few years later, she is in demand as a sheet metal apprentice with a promising career and a retirement plan. “I wanted something mentally challenging,” she says. “Now I get paid to learn while I earn a great wage.” Crawford receives college credit for her classes at Local 28’s Nicholas Maldarelli Training Center in New York. “All of the CUNY and SUNY colleges accept our credits,” she 6 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
says. “I may go back to school someday, but next time I’ll study something architectural.” Crawford’s classes follow industry standards published by SMACNA and SMART. These demanding standards include all the skills she needs to work for an Architectural Metal Expertise contractor. “We draft blueprints, design equipment, fabricate in the shop, install, and weld,” Crawford says. “Sheet metal specialists do the testing and balancing work on HVAC systems to ensure high quality results. With so many different aspects of the industry, you can find something you enjoy.”
of Ontario. “And we have to replace valuable employees who are retiring. We need more apprentices.” Colussi’s situation is common. As a result of a shrinking labor force and the tendency to steer all teens to four-year colleges, employers have been challenged to find enough skilled workers. As experienced craftspersons move toward retirement, employers are eager to hire young people with the skills to deliver high quality results.
Myth Two: There aren’t many high-paying jobs for young people. Reality: Trade school graduates have a higher employment rate than four-year graduates. “As far as overall construction, there’s a shortage of skilled craftspersons,” says Harmon. “I get a couple of calls a week from places like Georgia and Florida. HVAC expertise is in short supply, so experienced craftspersons can earn six figure incomes.” The demand is international. “We’re in the middle of a construction boom in Canada,” says George Colussi, sheet metal and HVAC manager for Trade Mark Industrial Multi-Trade Contractors
Myth Three: Only college graduates have good retirement plans. Reality: The urgent need for skilled labor translates into financial security for young people. “Students and their families are always surprised to learn about our retirement plan,” says Jacob Crismon, director of marketing for Local 36. “Here in Central Missouri, members who have 30 years of credit can retire at age 55 with full pension benefits.” Various Locals have different retirement ages, but they all offer exciting retirement options. “I have a great retirement plan with two separate pensions,” Crawford says. “Local 28 allows me to choose how to invest my pension and provides training in how to invest for my future. Some jobs pay well but don’t include financial counseling to help people manage money. Professional athletes have amazing incomes, but they often end up poor. Local 28 has the resources and people to help me protect my money. My future is secure.” Myth Four: All insurance plans are equal. Reality: Most young people don’t think about insurance until they need it. By then, they might not be able to find policies that cover their actual expenses. “Two of the last three people who came to talk to me about insurance already have babies on the way,” says Partners in Progress » October 2019 » 7
Myths vs. Realities
“Local high school counselors used to push college for everyone,” says Kris Harmon, business agent for Local 36 in central Missouri. “Now they talk to kids about other career options, including HVAC. They teach our classes on high school campuses and point kids to the JATCs.”
”Math was not my strongest subject in school—I was actually an English major, but now I’m loving it. I can see how the math problems translate into building things. It’s very hands-on, and there’s plenty of help to understand.” The specialized training isn’t just interesting for students, it also leads to better job security. Not only do trade school graduates have a 4% higher employment rate than graduates of four-year programs, but also they are 21% more likely to find work in their desired fields.
Crismon. Fortunately, Local 36 is prepared to support members with complete medical coverage. “We buy insurance in a large group with several hundred other locals. By purchasing together, we lower our insurance costs so we can offer affordable medical and dental coverage for the whole family.” Myth Five: Math is hard. Reality: “The math we use in sheet metal is very different from what most apprentices remember from high school,” Harmon says. “We use geometry, and we put it to work directly in the field. It’s a completely new experience when you use the math to build something.” ITI-certified instructors use proven teaching techniques to help students succeed. “Our apprentices are in the JATC classroom in the morning, and in the afternoon they move to the workshop to lay a project out,” explains Jacob Crismon, Local 36 marketing director. “Apprentices learn from practical experience how important correct measurements are. You can’t stretch the metal back if you cut it wrong!” Like many students, Crawford prefers math she can apply. “To my surprise, the math is what I’ve enjoyed most,” Crawford says. 8 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
Myth Six: Sheet metal work is only for men. Reality: “The myth that only men succeed in this field is just that…a myth,” says Barbie Simpson, owner and president of Simpson Sheet Metal in Santa Rosa, California. “In fact, we have found women’s ability to attend to the details required with architectural sheet metal is great. As for me and my company, we are all about women in the business. I have one young lady who works in the field, and I would welcome any others who come my way.” In New York, Crawford also finds that women are welcome in sheet metal. “I’d guess that my co-workers are about 98% male,” says Crawford. “That took some getting used to. Often I am the only woman on a worksite, but people treat me with respect.” The Payoff Local 36 has worked for years to spread the truth about sheet metal careers in Missouri, and Harmon is seeing the results. “Local high school counselors used to push college for everyone,” he says. “Now they talk to kids about other career options, including HVAC. They teach our classes on high school campuses and point kids to the JATCs.” As SMACNA and SMART continue share the facts about sheet metal with the public, they will open doors of opportunity for future apprentices and for the industry as a whole. ▪ A Colorado native, Sheralyn Belyeu lives and writes deep in the woods of Alabama. When she’s not writing, she grows organic blueberries and collects misspellings of her name.
SMACNA and SMART will make resources available to Contractors, Chapters, Local Unions and JATCâ€™s that can be customized for your area. In addition SMACNA and SMART will be emailing and sharing these resources with High School and Middle School Guidance Counselors. If there are schools that are particularly important to s your region, Please provide any information about the school and contacts you have and we will add them to the outreach!
CHOOSE BIGGER –
WISCONSIN MARKETING CAMPAIGN FINDS ITS TARGET By Cairine Caughill When the Wisconsin area wanted to increase the number of qualified applicants for apprenticeships, they decided to try something different. Ken Groeschel Jr., project manager at ButtersFetting Company, Inc. and co-chair of the Milwaukee Apprentice Committee, along with Lauri Rollings, former executive director at the Plumbing Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors’ Alliance (PMSMCA), reached out to Nehlsen Communications, an agency that works primarily in the union/construction trade industry, for help creating a marketing campaign that would resonate with their target market. “We hadn’t promoted the industry and its potential before,” Groeschel explains. “We wanted to improve our candidate pool in the apprenticeship ranks, go out and market our industry and the jobs to the schools and the guidance counselors we’d largely ignored for a long time.” Matt Sanchez of Nehlsen Communications says, “We called the campaign Choose Bigger because we wanted to create a versatile message. Choose bigger. Choose a future with no college debt. Choose a career in technology. Choose a bigger career within the community. We presented a comprehensive campaign that would 10 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
advertise this industry in the same words that make it attractive to a young person.” That message is no college debt, technology use, community, and a sense of pride. I built that. Look what I’ve done. “These are all things that young people love, and we just led with it,” Sanchez says. “We delivered it through digital advertising strategies, so we were able to deliver to exact age groupings, exact jurisdictional boundaries, and women, which is a huge goal in this industry.” The multi-faceted marketing program rolled out in 2017, and included a website, banners, brochures, videos, Google advertising, an email follow-up campaign, career fair displays, and social media with information for students, parents, and counselors. According to Michael Mooney, president and business manager of Local 18, most of the high schools and the guidance counselors were steering all the kids towards four-year colleges. “We knew that today’s youth don’t really want to have a mailing or a handout, so we’ve put everything online. They can get it on their phones. That’s what they’re interested in,” Mooney says. However, reaching students is not enough. When the program
“We split the cost and had joint meetings to develop the Choose Bigger platform…We knew we had a fantastic joint apprenticeship training program to offer but that we were not attracting as many candidates as we needed,” says Michael Mooney, Local 18 president and business manager. was introduced, most parents and high school guidance counselors were steering all students towards colleges and universities after high school. Thus, to be effective, the program had to get buy-in from those gatekeepers. “We worked with our area technical college and created a pathway that would allow anyone completing the apprenticeship program to also earn a four-year degree by taking some basic courses at night,” Mooney says. “They end up with a bachelor’s degree and no college debt.” This kind of opportunity appeals to guidance counselors who are focused on directing students toward higher education. “It also appeals to parents who have a vested interest in helping their children obtain a college degree without large tuition payments and high student loans,” Mooney says. The Wisconsin area is definitely finding success with the Choose Bigger program. “This platform has allowed us to market and brand our jobs so we could improve recruitment efforts and sell our industry to a competitive labor pool,” Groeschel says. Indeed, Mooney credits the marketing campaign for driving apprenticeship enrollment numbers higher than ever. “It’s added another tool to our belt,” he says. (Choose Bigger has done so well that the program has spread beyond Wisconsin to the Mid-Atlantic—West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC—and Colorado. All of the regions’ sites are available via choosebigger.com. Each site is customized with area-specific information, including wage rates.) Both Groeschel and Mooney say the strong partnership between SMART and SMACNA in Wisconsin was instrumental in developing this program. “We split the cost and had joint meetings to develop the Choose Bigger platform,” Mooney says. “We knew we had a fantastic joint apprenticeship training program to offer but that we were not attracting as many candidates as we needed. Working together made sense because when we get the best candidates, the employers are getting the best employees, and the union is getting the best members. It’s a win-win.” Jonathan Kowalski, the current executive director of PMSMCA, is excited about the program as it stands and about its potential. “There’s a population decline going on in the Midwest,” he says. “That means more competition to attract 18 to 25-year-olds. We have good momentum now, so how do we refine? How do we continue to tweak the message? How do we continue to be smart about where we’re putting resources as we try to grow these apprenticeship programs?” ▪ Cairine Caughill is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada.
SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT CHOOSE BIGGER Dylan Mooney is a first-year apprentice with Local 18 and has been working at Total Mechanical for just over a year. He first heard about Choose Bigger from his father, Mike Mooney, president and business manager of Local 18. “In my senior year, I decided I didn’t want to go to college and school wasn’t for me,” Dylan Mooney says. “I was talking to my dad, and he said I could get into sheet metal and told me all the numbers—the wages and all that—and I was pretty intrigued.” During high school, the trades weren’t really on Dylan’s radar. “I was never told how to get into the trades. I was told, ‘You’re going to go to college. What college do you want to go for?’ They made all of us send ACT applications to colleges I didn’t have interest in. They never really focused on the trades.” Dylan is a great advertisement for the trades now. One of his friends is a pre-apprentice at JM Brennan, looking at getting his apprenticeship within the next couple of months. He has another friend who is going to have the same chat Dylan did with his dad.” Dylan also plans on persuading a couple more of his friends to get into the trade. Dylan’s friends are always interested when he mentions his salary. “I tell them you work hard for the money, and they’re good to you,” he says. “You get paid to learn, and you get reimbursed if you get good grades, so there’s incentive to pay attention and go to school. They’re seeing that I have a solid job with a steady schedule and good pay. I tell them, ‘It could be you.’” Partners in Progress » October 2019 » 11
The Sheet Metal & Roofing Contractors Association of Miami Valley (Dayton) and Local 24’s joint marketing/recruiting committee has developed a social media footprint that has attracted many qualified applicants. From left to right: SMRCA Designer and Print Manager Joe Williams; Local 24 Business Representative Mike Tipton; SMRCA Managing Director Rachel Pinkus; Local 24 JATC Administrator Eugene Frazier; SMRCA Managing Director Megan Miller; Local 24 Business Representative Rick Perdue; Kathy Kerber, President of KSM, Inc. and a member of the joint Best Practices Market Expansion Task Force; and SMRCA Executive Vice President Bob Pope.
Cooperation is King By Don Procter • Photos courtesy of Sheet Metal & Roofing Contractors Association, Miami Valley Labor-management relationships in the sheet metal industry have come a long way from when the “us versus them” philosophy was the norm. Those divided attitudes might have worked in the 20th century, but times are different. Cooperative relationships are proving to get things done these days. A good example is the partnership between the Sheet Metal & Roofing Contractors Association (SMRCA) of Miami Valley (Dayton) and Local 24, which covers 88 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. It was actually at the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference where these labor-management partners established a key initiative to raise apprentices’ wages for the first two years in order to increase retention. SMRCA Executive Vice President Bob Pope and Local 24 Business Representative Mike Tipton worked together and managed to accomplish the goal without raising the costs of the total contract package. They moved a small portion of the apprentices’ pension contribution to their hourly rate. The move has proven successful. Tipton says the retention rate of first- and second-year apprentices has increased by more than 50% since the wage hikes of a $1.25 an hour in year one and $1 an hour in year two. “It transitions those apprentices to where they were supposed to be by their third year,” Tipton says. 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
Fifteen years ago the two sides would have been at loggerheads, Pope says. “We would have ended up going to the bargaining table to figure it out. I guess we let personalities get in the way. Instead of cooperating, we thought we could punch each other in the nose and win.” That adversarial relationship might have worked during better times—the 1990s, for example—but since that time, both sides have lost a big chunk of the market to the nonunion sector, Pope says. Attitudes between the two sides had to change to try to make up lost ground. “Our relationship went from strained to good.” Pope says that new leadership in Local 24 and SMRCA helped bring about the change. “The main thing we learned at the Partners in Progress Conference is that we needed to formalize our cooperation and get together more often,” he says. The two sides came up with new marketing strategies for recruitment, and now they meet quarterly to review social media initiatives that target young people most likely to enter the trade. Nowadays, contractors and their union partners attend job fairs together, says Rodney French, business manager and financial secretary-treasurer for Local 24. “The union can
recruit as many people as they want, but there have to be jobs for them, which is why it is important to have the contractors at the table with us,” French says. Marketing efforts, such as those presented at jointly-hosted apprenticeship contests, also are working, Pope adds. Out of nine recent applicants, seven were strong candidates for the field. “Two years ago, only one out of nine applicants would be suitable,” he says. French says the Partners in Progress Conference is seminal for all the Locals because it opens the dialogue to key nationwide issues. “We have been able to use a lot of the information we get there in the Local and at the association,” French says. A case in point is bolstering recruitment of women and minorities, French says, adding that since the Partners in Progress Conference, Local 24 has started a women’s committee to address day-to-day issues women experience in the field. Tipton, who believes many of the young contractors in the field represent a cooperative voice in the industry, says the establishment of quarterly labor-management meetings opened up communication lines to facilitate brainstorming sessions on matters like upcoming projects and workforce needs.
A Dayton, Ohio, high school class tours Local 24’s training center during the 2018 National Apprentice Week open house that was implemented as a result of attending last year’s Partners in Progress Conference.
The development of certification training for fire and smoke damper inspection, repair, and installation, meant Local 24’s business agents and mechanical contractors started looking at avenues for work, including schools and hospitals. The training idea is the brainchild of SMART International and the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC). “I think that is where the labor-management meetings come in, because every quarter Mike (Tipton) is there with the contractors asking if they have their certifications up on firelife safety,” Pope says. “It is one area where these meetings keep us moving ahead.” French adds that the aim is to establish training and certification recognition for all the fire damper inspections in federal buildings, such as courthouses, post offices, and military facilities. “It is not accomplished yet, but without
Students try out a virtual reality unit set up by Ohio Valley Sheet Metal Apprentice Coordinators Group and provided by the sheet metal ITI on display at the Skills USA Contest held annually in Columbus.
labor, the management, and our contractors buying into this, we would never have gotten this far,” he says. That recognition is important, French says, noting that inspections can save lives and property, plus they provide significant workforce hours for Local 24 members while creating work for the contractors. Through the Partners in Progress Conference a proposed light commercial agreement has been discussed but both sides have agreed to hold off for now because of existing workforce shortages in the building trades in Dayton. “These quarterly meetings let us revisit that kind of thing,” French says, adding that there is no better example of the solid relationship labormanagement has than when eight tornadoes devastated parts of the Dayton region last Memorial Day. Many members of Local 24 lost their homes and belongings. In response, both sides went into action the day after. First they found out who was affected and then put an action plan in place. Many who helped came from jurisdictions outside Dayton. “Our members and the contractors cleaned the houses up, saved what they could, cut trees down, you name it,” French says. “They came together and did this. The contractors brought trucks, bobcats, chainsaws, and other necessary equipment. There is no way labor could have done this on its own.” Even though power outages cut access to payroll registers, contractors made sure employees got their pay checks. Some of them even wrote personal checks to employees who were tornado victims to help them get by until payroll systems were back up. The aid effort included organizing a food drive to feed the teams of workers and contractors in the rescue mission. Both sides wanted to foot the bill for meals, French says. “I found it amusing that the union and the contractors would fight over that.” ▪ A freelance writer based in Toronto, Don Procter covers the building, design, and planning industries in Canada and the United States. Partners in Progress » October 2019 » 13
Back To School Cleveland’s School-ToApprenticeship Program is Helping Diversify the Industry
By / Natalie Bruckner • Photos submitted by John Nesta and Tori Wilson
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Victoria (Tori) Wilson was in grade 8 when she realized she wanted a career where she could work with her hands. Like most kids, however, she had limited knowledge of the trades, and specifically the sheet metal industry. So when the opportunity came up to take part in the Sheet Metal Workers Cleveland JATC school-to-apprenticeship program, she jumped at the chance. “Welding appealed to me, in particular, and seemed like a great career choice,” Wilson says. “I entered the program and found it extremely valuable, because it gave me an opportunity to learn on the job and, ultimately, go on to join the sheet metal union right out of high school.” Today, Wilson is a first-year apprentice with SMACNA Cleveland member T.H. Martin, Inc., and loving every minute of it. The school-to-apprenticeship program began in 1997 when the Cleveland JATC and local career centers, with the support from sheet metal contractors and Local 33, agreed on a program to attract the top students into the sheet metal industry and help diversify the workforce. “It’s a program that the trades had been trying to get established for many years,” says John Nesta, Construction Curriculum Specialist at Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). “While the school-to-apprenticeship program started back in the late 90s with suburban career centers, it was always a little challenging to get the Cleveland schools on board due to bureaucracy.” In 2018, CMSD, Max Hayes High School, and the JATC signed an agreement on the school-to-apprenticeship program, which would allow students who complete their school work to receive direct entry into an apprenticeship program. “It’s a major step forward,” says Nesta, who directly oversees the school-to-apprenticeship program and brings with him a wealth of knowledge, having worked as the training coordinator at Local 33 for 27 years. “The challenge for the sheet metal industry, like other trades, has always been outreach,” Nesta says. “We could never tap into the pool of qualified minorities. This school-to-apprenticeship program is tackling that problem head on.” Two summers ago, three students went to work for two different contractors in Cleveland, one of whom was a minority male, one was a hispanic male, and one was an African American female. They worked all summer, and in October, two of those students went back to work part time. All three of them received direct entry and are now apprentices. To qualify, students must be at least 17 years old, graduate with a minimum 3.0 average in their building construction or welding courses, and achieve an overall average of at least 2.5. They must also maintain 95% attendance in high school, two points above the state standard. During the program, students earn $12.50 an hour, and when they graduate and enter the five-year sheet metal apprenticeship, they start at $14.84 per hour, plus benefits. They also earn
“This program opens the window of opportunity and is breaking generational poverty trends,” says John Nesta, Construction Curriculum Specialist at Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “Kids from the worst part of town will end up making more money than their families ever have.” college credits during the apprenticeship. Following that, they become journeypersons, with earnings around $37 per hour. “It opens the window of opportunity and is breaking generational poverty trends,” Nesta says. “Kids from the worst part of town will end up making more money than their families ever have.” The success of the program (another four students took part in the program last summer), is also thanks to buy-in and support from sheet metal contractors and the union. In fact, Nesta goes so far as to say the contractors have been “phenomenal.” T.H. Martin, Inc. is one of many firms that has been fully supportive of both the pre-apprenticeship program and the school-to-apprenticeship program and is seeing great success as a result. School-to-apprenticeship student Matthew Gonzalez worked for SMACNA contractor Smith & Oby Company.
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Back to School
Tori Wilson is a first-year apprentice with SMACNA Cleveland member T.H. Martin, Inc. in Ohio
“We get candidates that are interested and engaged in our industry,” says Thomas E. Martin, president of T.H. Martin, Inc. “By and large, it has been a very good experience for us. We have had about 10 individuals go through the programs over the years that are now full-time employees.” Martin is also proud of the fact that SMACNA contractors were the first building trade association to sign up with the City of Cleveland. “It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it,” he says. “The program gives men and women a good trade and a good living. It also helps with our diversity and inclusion initiatives, adding more people of color and women to the trade.” At T.H. Martin, students only work in the shop, due to legal age restrictions, but they learn about everything from how the company is structured to sheet metal fabrication and processing, welding, lining of ductwork, and safety. “We try to give them experience of fabrication throughout all our disciplines. They help us on our projects within our shop, and if they eventually want to become first-year apprentices, they have the experience,” Martin says. Kendrick Hunt, 18, participated in the school-toapprenticeship program and is now an apprentice with T.H. 16 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
Martin. Hunt saw the program as a way of learning a valuable trade without getting into the cycle of student debt. Student loan debt has ballooned over the past few decades. Americans now owe more than $1.53 trillion in student loan debt, and the average student loan debt amounts to $37,172. As a result, a shift in mindset is underway. College is no longer universally seen as the “best” route. “For many years, schools were telling kids they were too smart to enter into construction,” Nesta says. “But not every kid wants to go to college, and it takes a certain person to become a sheet metal worker. We have been working with guidance counsellors to educate them on this.” Ultimately, the Dayton program is not only providing more upward mobility and education for those interested in working in the sheet metal and HVAC industries, but also it is providing the Ohio industries with top, well-trained talent. Al Simonitis, training coordinator at Local 33, says that the program “is the ideal way to feel-out new applicants and get them acclimated to the work environment.” One challenge over the years has been a misunderstanding of the sheet metal industry, which Simonitis hopes the programs will help eliminate. “To offer high school students the opportunity to experience the sheet metal trade before they’ve committed to another career or college, is priceless,” Simonitis says. “There is less risk for a high school student to get involved as a school-to-apprentice student than for an adult with a job or career and a family. Older applicants often take a pay cut to start with us as a first-year apprentice. For a high school student, a summer job that pays almost 50% more than minimum wage is a great job opportunity.” Martin adds that the impact of this program goes beyond education and beyond diversity. “The more opportunities we give young people the better,” he says. “We need to look at proactive options to find better talent for our industry. A lot of times people enter into our industry by word of mouth—a father, mother, or sister has worked in the sector. This is just a different avenue to spread the word.” And as for advice about the school-to-apprenticeship program, Wilson says, “For any students that want to get involved, my best piece of advice would be to learn as much as possible, keep asking questions, and stay driven. If this is something you might be interested in, take advantage of this opportunity. I am very thankful for the opportunity that Fairview Park High School, Polaris Career Center, and the program gave me, and I am extremely thankful to T.H.Martin for taking me in, teaching me, and giving me real life experience.” ▪ Natalie Bruckner is an award-winning writer who has worked in the UK, 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.