ITI hosts first JATC Trustee Conference

The inaugural JATC Trustee Conference took place Thursday, Feb. 29 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, at the end of the Partners in Progress Conference. The gathering brought more than 320 training coordinators and Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) trustees together, connecting them with the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI is jointly sponsored by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

The event was an effort to foster communication between ITI and the trustees, who, working with the training coordinator, decide the path, goals and instruction at more than 148 training centers across the United States and Canada. The conference agenda was created to help trustees understand the ITI, see what curriculum looks like, hear about updates to curricula coming soon, and see how training is adapting to the changing needs of the workforce and how new technology is helping the industry become “best in class,” said SMART General President Mike Coleman.

Matt Cramer, ITI trustee and owner of Dee Cramer out of Holly, Michigan, opened the conference with Coleman. Mike Harris, ITI administrator, addressed those gathered and spoke about the support available from ITI as well as the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) and the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT).

“You have a group of Funds, a team that works for you,” said Harris.

The ITI can provide a wide picture of apprenticeship across the country, allowing local trustees to see where industry standards and trends are headed. Using the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards (NGAS), Harris took the attendees through the minimum national requirements. The idea — don’t completely eliminate candidates before they apply.

“If they aren’t qualified to be an apprentice, they will eliminate themselves from contention,” Harris said. “This is what we’re seeing on a national level.”

Tomorrow’s apprentices do their homework on a program before they apply, studies have shown, and Apprenticeship Readiness Programs (ARPs) are great ways to recruit work-ready applicants, said Tammy Meyen, ITI director of recruitment and retention.

“These are highly qualified candidates, so we have to put our best foot forward,” Meyen said. “They know exactly what it is they bring to the table.”

This new generation of apprentices also grew up with technology in their hands at home and in school. Technology is not only a way to move the industry forward and remain relevant, it attracts candidates to the programs, said Ron McGuire, ITI director of virtual design and construction (VDC) and technology training.

“Times have changed, and we need to change with them,” McGuire said about technology advances in the industry. “We have to be proactive.”

One way to get a good look at the next generation of apprentices is through the Heavy Metal Summer Experience, created by Angie Simon, former SMACNA president, who introduced the program to conference attendees. The nonprofit organization is meant to familiarize high school students and recent high school graduates, preferably ages 16 to 19, with the mechanical trades. Students get to try hands-on projects, tour facilities and learn what a career in sheet metal can be. Sponsors of the program include Dewalt, Milwaukee Tool, SMACNA, Procore, Trane and Mestek Machinery.

For more information on the Heavy Metal Summer Experience, visit the website at

From training center accreditation criteria, technology and curricula to assistance programs gauged to support apprenticeship programs, information was shared in order to keep the training of apprentices and journeypersons moving forward.

“Change is inevitable. Growth, that is entirely optional,” said Len Liebert, ITI program administrator. “You have to have a growth mindset. We have all the resources here available to help you; you just have to reach out and ask.”

The ITI was created to help anyone involved with the training and mentorship of apprentices — coordinators, instructors and trustees, alike — expand their knowledge base. Every piece of knowledge gained, every loan granted, every grant accepted, every new instructor and coordinator trained and every standard reviewed helps to make all sheet metal apprenticeship programs better.

The one-day conference, the first of its kind, welcomed more than 320 attendees, most of which were trustees. Communicating with trustees, encouraging involvement and providing information made the event an all-around success, and Harris said he hopes it’s just the beginning.

Previous Post
St. Louis sheet metal worker takes national union director role
Next Post
Ohio woman gains national role in sheet metal, air quality industry

Related Posts

No results found.