ITI hosts annual Continuing Professional Instruction in Florida

The International Training Institute (ITI) hosted its annual Continuing Professional Instruction/Coordinators Conference Aug. 9-10 in Hollywood, Florida. More than 75 training coordinators were in attendance, along with ITI field staff, to continue the conversation about recruitment and retention, share information and find ways to make the apprenticeship more inclusive to women and minorities.

The ITI is the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry and provides curriculum to more than 150 training centers nationwide.

“Recruitment and retention is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but we do need to make sure we are consistent with our message,” said James Page, ITI administrator, during his opening remarks. “This is a very interactive conference. It’s our chance to present new information to you, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to give us your questions and comments, network with others in our industry, and for new coordinators to connect with those who have been here a while.”

Joseph Sellers, Jr., general president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) union, led one of the first discussions, including a peek at the state of the union. Since 2008, SMART membership and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) contractor base has declined.

“I don’t want that to be the new normal. If we’re not organizing, we’re going backwards,” Sellers said. “If we don’t shape our future, someone is going to shape it for us. We have to figure out how to recapture the workers we have lost”

Sellers called for an “all hands on deck” approach, using every skill, tool and technique members have to recruit additional members. Looking ahead, preparing for projects coming in the next year to five years, helps the union and the apprenticeships remain proactive.

The future includes millennials and how to recruit them; technology and how to use it; and creating training opportunities and getting them into the apprenticeships as soon as possible.

Part of the future also is capturing veterans who are honorably transitioning out of the military and into the civilian world. These veterans often are seeking a new career – not just a job – that will successfully send them into the next stage of their lives.

Helmets to Hardhats is an organization that works directly with the ITI to funnel interested veterans to training centers across the country. TotalTrack, ITI’s proprietary software, is linked to the Helmets to Hardhats database, and by using it, training directors can complete ZIP code and keyword searches to search for veterans in their areas, or interested veterans will be sent straight to their inboxes to contact from the Helmets to Hardhats system. They also can participate in the Helmets to Hardhats ambassador program, be a mentor and connect with SMART Heroes, a fast-track apprenticeship training program at Local 66’s Western Washington Sheet Metal apprenticeship in Dupont, Washington, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Tiffany Thompson, director of advocacy programs at Oregon Tradeswomen; Lisa Davis, instructor at Local 16 in Portland, Oregon; Leah Rambo, training director at Local 28 in New York; and Chris Carlough, SMART director of education, led a discussion during the conference, answering questions, brainstorming ideas and encouraging training directors to share techniques and strategies that work in their training programs with one another.

Resources such as Chicago Women in Trades’ National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment, Oregon Tradeswomen and Mississippi Women in the Construction are all there to help coordinators learn about how to recruit and retain more women and minorities into their training centers. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also offers Harassment Prevention and Respectful Workplaces Training, an interactive, skills-based program that provides modules for employees and supervisors; teaches how to create a respectful workplace; reviews acceptable conduct; provides tools to respond to harassing behavior; and teaches bystanders when and how to intervene.

“To tackle this systemic issue, it’s going to have to be a partnership,” Thompson said. “Your apprentices and journey workers want to help you. You just have to give them the tools.”

Technology has the possibility of being a driving force for younger apprentices. From 3-D building information modeling (BIM) to virtual welders and boom lifts, apprentices have the option of using technology that will change the industry forever on a daily basis.

Ron McGuire, ITI BIM specialist, demonstrated the virtual boom lift. While some wonder if technology will replace jobs, McGuire said technology has more of an opportunity to increase jobs as it attracts apprentices who previously were interested in engineering and mechanics.

“What do we need to do? We need to grab the technology available and run with it,” McGuire said. “Do you think our competition is? You bet they are.”

Other updates given during CPI included:

  • This year, the ITI helped to develop a course aimed at increasing the market share for service technicians. The Service Maintenance and Start-up Training Course is a basic service and maintenance class aimed at getting talented sheet metal workers who want to become technicians into the trucks quickly. The class is meant to teach basic service work to sheet metal workers while they hone their skills. The local business manager works with contractors to send their best employees to the two-week course, which consists of five to 12 participants.
  • There will be 25 certified TAB labs by the end of 2018.
  • Duane Smith, director of certification for the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), announced seven of 21 certifications offered have been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
  • Mark Rifkind, principal at Slevin and Hart, general counsel for the ITI, presented an update to the U.S. EEOC including the responsibilities of the training centers to meet the Department of Labor requirements, which include disseminating policy; practicing universal outreach and recruitment; maintaining a program free from harassment; intimidation and retaliation; and complying with federal and state equal opportunity laws.

More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at over 150 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, the ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit the website or call 703-739-7200.

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