Dayton sheet metal leaders expand public education on the trade

Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 24 educates through tours, seminars

Educating the public as well as other labor trades on union sheet metal work, its training and its expertise is an ongoing effort by local union halls and training centers across the country. Eugene Frazier, training director of Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 24’s training center in Dayton, Ohio, along with Bob Pope, executive vice president of the Sheet Metal and Roofing Contractors Association/Dayton SMACNA affiliate of Miami Valley, Ohio, have joined forces to bring sheet metal work into the public vernacular one event at a time.

Unlike many of the other labor trades, “sheet metal worker” doesn’t describe the scope of HVAC design and installation, HVAC Fire Life Safety, architectural work, welding, roofing and many other skills sheet metal workers have in their tool belts.

“There’s just a misconception across the board,” Frazier said about sheet metal work. “We’re trying to reach out to everyone. If you don’t explain it, the average person doesn’t understand who we are or the training we provide.”

“You have to be out there all the time talking about who you are, what you do and what you offer as well as the advantages,” Pope added. “No one is going to do it for you.”

Frazier and Pope have partnered with the Roofing Consultants Institute to offer hands-on, eight-hour seminars held four times a year. The sessions allow members involved in the design and observation of installations of rooftops, architectural sheet metal and masonry – as well as a selection of quality contractors, architects and engineers – the chance to earn continuing education units (CEU) and learn more about how sheet metal and their work affect one another.

The first class was held in February, 2014 and will continue throughout the rest of 2015.

“These are key people,” Pope said. “They have an engineering background, and they’re interested in quality installation, and we’re interested in that, too.”

Seminars are held at Local No. 24’s training centers, giving the members of the Roofing Consultants Institute a close-up look at what sheet metal workers do, and more importantly, why.

“They see our guys on the job, and they don’t understand how they’re trained. There were a lot of questions like ‘Why do you do it this way?’ I think it’s going to be an ongoing relationship,” Pope said. “It’s opened up some opportunities for us.”

“We showed them the everyday life as an apprentice becoming a craftsman,” Frazier added.

Local No. 24 isn’t stopping with the Roofing Consultants Institute. With the support of Rieck Services, a local sheet metal contractor, Frazier and Pope have invited such firms as Messer Construction Management in for lunch-and-learn sessions, which include a tour of the training center and the Rieck Services fabrication shop so they could see how the training translates to apprentices and journeymen on the job site.

“We showed them the teaching and application in one day,” Pope said. “We introduced them to the program and one of our contractors.”

Senators, representatives and state representatives also have toured the facility to make the connection between traditional higher education and apprenticeship with college credits.

“We had them walk through, so they could see the training program we have that we fund with our own money and explain our system,” Pope said. “This was all news to them.”

With the help of Scott Hammond, Local No. 24’s business manager, fire chiefs, inspectors and directors have also toured the facility and attended classes at the training center in HVAC Fire Life Safety, including the proper installation and inspection of fire and smoke dampers, which save the lives of occupants and first responders by preventing the spread of fire and smoke.

“Scott made it possible for us to start at the top with the mayor, city manager and fire department director, and fire inspector director,” Pope said. “And they’re very receptive to coming back now and putting on classes.”

For those who want to raise the public and official awareness of sheet metal work in their communities, Pope and Frazier suggested becoming familiar with the movers and shakers in the construction industry and government capacities in their areas. They also recommended contacting local American Institute of Architects, Roofing Consultants Institute and Builders Exchange associations as well as any specific construction organizations such as local building trades councils, mechanist groups and the local chapter of the American Welding Society.

“Associations and organizations are always looking for new topics for their meetings,” Pope said. “It’s a pretty cheap investment to get these people in front of you. If your town doesn’t have these, find like-minded organizations to connect with.”

Expanding horizons, Pope and Frazier have found success educating high school athletic coaches, who often serve as counselors to their players on education decisions after high school. Local No. 24 also has been heavily involved by hosting a breakfast for local high school superintendents, counselors, principals and administrators.

“They are those individuals’ mentors at that age,” Frazier said. “Those coaches are a great ally to who we are. Counselors are from academia. They typically don’t know about or understand apprenticeship.”

“We have to tell our story every day over and over and over,” Pope added. “We just need to look for groups we haven’t looked at yet.”

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