Conference makes camaraderie a lesson worth remembering

Sheet metal professionals gather for 17th TABB/2018 ICB Conference

FAIRFAX, Va. – People are at the heart of the sheet metal industry, and the 17th annual Testing Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB) Conference/2018 International Certification Board (ICB) Conference reflected that, focusing inward on the people who make this industry successful.

The conference, held in Sacramento, California, April 23-27, brought together more than 170 members of SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; business agents, JATC instructors and coordinators, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) representatives, contractors, vendors and more to discuss everything from addiction, recovery and mentoring to lean construction, business development and certification.

The main theme of this year’s event was camaraderie, and this year’s conference didn’t fall short of it.

“I enjoy getting to interact with other people in our profession, share stories, tips and tricks, and build relationships,” said Soph Davenberry, lead testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) technician/foreman for Hermanson Company in Seattle. “I stay in touch with the people I meet here and will call them during the year when I run into issues in the field. I love that we’re all problem-solvers.”

From earning continuing education units (CEUs) to learning new information and networking with fellow sheet metal workers, the conference set a course for a year of success.

SMART Members Assistance Program (MAP) presented a two-part workshop to help attendees better understand the science behind addiction while increasing their empathy for fellow workers and apprentices with the disease. Presented by Chris Carlough, SMART director of education, and guest speaker Jennifer Angier, group CEO of Talbott Recovery Campus in Georgia, the workshop covered the topic in two parts.

Carlough takes SMART MAP across the country to train those in leadership positions how to spot journey people and apprentices with mental health problems and about suicide awareness as well as stressful situations that is not only impeding their work, but it’s affecting their lives and overall well-being.

More than 40 million Americans are currently dealing with addiction, and of those, 91 die daily from opioid overdose alone. The construction industry has the second-highest suicide rate of any industry at 53.3 per 100,000 workers.

“There’s a special place in my heart for people who understand more than just the numbers,” Angier said. “Every person in this room knows someone who is an alcoholic or struggles with abuse. I love speaking to a group like this that feels a strong obligation to one another. You’re leaving something behind. You’re creating a system that makes people’s lives better.”

More than 400 sheet metal members have been trained to guide co-workers and friends to the correct professional or organization for help. This year, training coordinators will be added to the list because of their direct interaction with apprentices.

“There’s a movement going on in this country, and it’s powerful,” Carlough said. “It’s the right thing to do, and we’re expanding it into every corner of our industry.”

Many will agree that eliminating waste, creating efficient processes and increasing productivity are the right thing to do as well, and during his presentation on lean construction, Cary Norberg, ITI field representative, took attendees through the motions of creating a mindset.

Lean construction has been around since the days of Henry Ford, but it really came into its own at Toyota in the 1980s. Today, there has been a resurgence of interest from general and mechanical contractors due to its tendency to save costs and energy and increase productivity.

Lean construction also promotes employee trust and accountability, fosters respect for others, and creates a culture of change and gives companies a competitive edge over nonunion competition, as long as it’s adopted by everyone in the company.

To achieve buy-in, Norberg discussed ideas to run a fun monthly lean idea contest and build camaraderie, company culture and collaboration.

“Our mission, to develop business opportunities for SMACNA contractors and the SMART workforce, guides everything we do,” said Duane Smith, ICB/TABB director of certification. “That’s the purpose of this conference, to help further that mission. The contractors I’ve spoken to had positive things to say about classes like Lean Construction, SMART MAP and ITI Business Development. A lot of these seminars and workshops are geared toward them.”

 

ITI Business Development was created by SMART and ITI in order to educate members on owning their own business, whether they decide to go into business for themselves, help start a new department at their employer or just better understand what employers handle on a daily basis.

The class is taught in three phases: the first eight-week phase includes distance learning on the Moodle platform, which allows two hours with the instructor via video conference and 10 hours of homework; the second phase is in person for three to five days, where students learn from tax, legal, insurance/bonding and sales/marketing professionals as well as SMART representatives; and the third phase is an additional eight weeks of distance learning where students develop their business plans. They are then directed to the Small Business Administration (SBA) which will evaluate their plans through a performance analysis.

“The sheet metal industry needs to encourage contractor sign-ups from its own ranks,” said Larry Lawrence, ITI field representative who facilitated the presentation. “However, 65 percent of all businesses fail in the first five years. This course is designed to increase the odds by giving students an honest look at what it takes to succeed as a union contractor.”

The success rate for startups that go through the SBA process is 78 percent after five years, Lawrence said.

Lean construction, International Training Institute (ITI) Business Development and SMART MAP are two ways the Funds — National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), ITI and Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) — collaborated to bring workshops members can use to this year’s conference.

“The way the Funds worked together is another reason for the conference’s success,” said Dave Bernett, NEMIC administrator. “SMART MAP and Lean Construction are two examples of collaboration between the Funds. Both workshops were extremely well-attended, with a great deal of participation and active engagement. The feedback I’ve gotten has been all positive, especially when it comes to the quality of the presenters.”

Informational workshops on Infection Control Awareness (ICA); HVAC Fire Life Safety, and the local laws that can enforce it; and chilled beam and the ICB certification program are only some of the subject matters also presented during the conference, offering members the chance to earn their continuing education units (CEUs) and take knowledge back to their locals and contractors.

“Our SMART members had their choice of six classes with certification testing, plus important new information about NFPA 70E code updates, including arc flash safety,” Smith said. “Overall, I judge the success of the conference based on how well it helped us accomplish our mission.”

“The conference is a very useful tool. It keeps our skill sets sharp, and keeps us informed about the industry and what’s coming up,” said Bob Stewart, manager/TABB supervisor at GTAB LLC in Mesa, Arizona. “As a small business owner, it’s difficult to find the time to research all this information on my own.”

The camaraderie carried throughout the awards and induction into the TABB Hall of Fame.

The SMART Local 104 training center and instructor Dan Riley were awarded the JATC award while Local 20 and business representative John Wright received the union award and the Plumbing, Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors Alliance, Wisconsin received the SMACNA chapter award.

“I’ve been to five conferences now and this is the best. All of the breakouts have been valuable: Roadmap to Fire Life Safety Legislation, ITI Business Development, Architectural, SMART MAP 1 and 2,” Wright said. “The instructors have been very skilled in their subject matter. NEMI has outdone itself. Hopefully attendance will continue to grow.”

Pat Pico, a long-time instructor and former training coordinator for Local 104, was this year’s inductee into the TABB Hall of Fame.

“It was an honor for me to be included in the group of names on this plaque,” Pico said, referencing the TABB Hall of Fame plaque where all past recipients are engraved. “It’s about giving back what was given to me by TABB Hall of Famers like Tim Perry, who got me excited about TAB and encouraged me to keep learning and growing, and Bill Carr, Denny Kapowitz, Vince del Vecchio, Jack Webster and make others who gave their time and passed along the benefit of their experience.”

Although many attended the contest in order to learn new skills, others came to make sure the future of the industry remains bright.

“As an older individual, I like knowing that the status of TAB and the sheet metal industry is in good hands,” said Denny Kapowitz, project manager/TABB-certified supervisor for TNT System Solutions in Austin, Texas. “The new leadership group is steering the ship in a positive direction, moving it forward. This conference has something for everyone, and it was nice to see the younger members studying to improve their craft.”

ICB/TABB is the first program to gain ANSI accreditation under ISO 17024 for certification in the HVAC testing, adjusting and balancing and Fire Life Safety industry. ICB/TABB certification is a statement that the technician, supervisor and contractor demonstrate the highest level of professional expertise.

ICB/TABB is a function of the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), a not-for-profit organization jointly funded by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association). NEMIC identifies opportunities, seeking to create or expand employment for SMART members and programs that assist SMACNA contractors.

For more information on emerging market opportunities in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, contact the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) at www.TABBCertified.org call 800-458-6525.

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