The 18th annual sheet metal industry International Certification Board (ICB) Conference was held May 5-7 in Seattle with more than 150 attendees, including training coordinators, instructors, business managers, contractors, trustees and other stakeholders representing 41 locals and 34 states from across the country.
This year’s concentrated conference schedule was well-received by participants, not surprising according to Duane Smith, ICB/Testing and Balancing Bureau (TABB) director of certification, due to the two-day event in lieu of a five days in previous years.
The joint labor and management educational event featured a certification track and a business track and opened on a Sunday evening with a reception and recognition dinner to acknowledge the accomplishments of Vince Alvarado from Local 49 in New Mexico for spearheading the effort to pass the first statewide fire life safety legislation in March; Local 10 Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) in Minnesota; and the SMACNA New Mexico chapter. Awards will be given out throughout the year at relevant peer events such as the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation (SMART) Convention, the International Training Institute (ITI) Coordinator’s Conference and the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) Convention.
The TABB Hall of Fame award went to Davor Novosel, retired chief technology officer for NEMIC. The Hall of Fame was created by ICB in 2003 to recognize and honor deserving individuals for their dedicated service to the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau of the sheet metal industry.
“Davor is known for his keen intellect, eagle eye and ability to become an expert in any subject in record time,” said Matthew Cole, field operations manager for Wing’s Testing and Balancing Co., who accepted the award on his friend’s behalf. “He didn’t follow the book; he made the book follow him. Davor brought credibility to everything we do. He is a friend to us and the industry.”
In his opening remarks, NEMIC Administrator Dave Bernett explained why Seattle was chosen as the host city.
“One of the reasons we’re here is because we looked at the relationship between the local union and SMACNA chapter, how aggressive and progressive they are,” Bernett said. “The way they work together is essential to the types of successes we’ve experienced this past year, here and nationwide. We’re on a roll. Changing the name of our fire life safety certifications has made it easier for fire officials to understand what we do. The California Title 24 program is really coming to fruition. Contractors are engaged heavily. The point is that techs have to be knowledgeable to inspect and test the equipment. Oregon and New York are looking at similar programs next.”
The ICB Conference is known for its certifications, and overall 56 new professionals earned certifications in TABB Supervisor, Infection Control Awareness, Fire and Smoke Damper Supervisor and Smoke Control Systems Supervisor.
“The ICB truly has a certification for every member, and those certifications are what set us apart,” Smith said.
Monday’s business track kicked off with a fire life safety peer-to-peer discussion, in which two fire life safety contractors, James Larsen of Mechanical Test & Balance in Indiana, and Ohio’s John Sickle, president of Duct Fabricators, shared their 10-year journeys as pioneers in the inspection, testing and repair of fire and smoke dampers. The conversation included legislative efforts and marketing tactics targeting hospitals and other healthcare facilities, universities, office buildings and more, that have led to success for both employers, creating increased work hours and more consistent cash flow.
“We’re all here today to share ideas and best practices to help one another,” said Sickle, who was instrumental in getting fire life safety certification legislation passed in Cleveland and other Ohio municipalities. “We must become known as experts in our industry. There are unlimited opportunities out there.”
“Once you get to work, you have to be very thorough,” Larsen said. “Document all repairs that need to be done. It can lead to repair work.”
Larsen, who built his business from one to 30 employees over a period of three decades, emphasized the assistance available through NEMIC, including consultation, marketing materials, even lunch-and-learn presentations directed at fire officials. But it doesn’t happen automatically, he reminded the group. “It’s up to you guys to ask the NEMIC staff for help.”
Other day-one business track workshops included an update on California Title 24; a discussion on the power of implementation groups led by the International Training Institute’s (ITI) Cary Norberg; presentations by Funds administrators James Page of the ITI and Randall Krocka of the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT); demonstrations of innovative sheet metal construction and management software such as Bluebeam, AiRNAB and TABopts; and an introduction to Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems.
Second-day events drilled down even deeper, with dialogue on results-driven business promotion techniques, the importance of getting in on the ground floor of codes and standards technical committees, a detailed rundown of the SMART Members Assistance Program (MAP) by SMART Education Director Chris Carlough, and ending with a spirited contractor-to-contractor best practices discussion.
In addition, a vendor trade show and raffle, featuring Ameritech Data Solutions, Building Start, Evergreen Telemetry, Dwyer Instruments, Belimo Americas and TSI, Inc., provided valuable information and prizes for attendees.
Participants were engaged throughout, as summed up by Carl Catlett, owner of Complete Mechanical Balancing in Denver: “The conference was even better than I thought it would be. I got some awesome technical and marketing ideas. Now I just need to implement them.”
“It’s a shot in the arm,” echoed Chris Shaffer of Circle R Mechanical. “It recharges you a little. The tips you pick up and the technology aspect – you hear the different ways people are doing things.”
Jeff Hamilton, business representative for Local 20 in Gary, Indiana, was eager to share information with his colleagues back home.
“In the position I’m in, I’m looking to see what our industry and members need,” he said. “Also, what our contractors need, so I can bring it back to our JATC and Trust to plan out training programs to succeed.”
ICB/TABB, a program of the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), is the first of its kind to gain ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accreditation for certification in the testing, adjusting and balancing and HVAC fire life safety industry. The ICB/TABB program certification is a statement that the technician, supervisor and contractor demonstrate the highest level of professional expertise.
ICB/TABB is one way NEMIC identifies and develops market and educational opportunities for members of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.