New training centers invigorate apprentice programs nationwide

Increase in work, contractor demand leads to growing programs

FAIRFAX, Va. – Unionized sheet metal training centers across the country are undergoing construction or renovations or are celebrating completion due to contractor demand, growing programs and new technology. Curriculum for the training centers, which is a joint-operating agreement between the local union and signatory contractors, is provided largely by the ITI.

Local No. 19

Construction began on Local No. 19’s new 12,000-square-foot building in Central Pennsylvania this summer, and plans for the completed school, set to open this summer, are already underway.

The school will feature 12 welding booths, computer-aided design and testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) labs, two classrooms, service lab and future clean room in an open floor plan, “where everything is a teaching or learning opportunity,” said Pat Edmonds, training director.

“The open ceiling concept will allow students to see, repair and install HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] components. The entire building will act as a TAB lab, including a mezzanine that will be used for both a TAB and service lab,” he added.

Local No. 19 is working with the ITI and Centria to create a building enclosure design to help encourage the love of architectural sheet metal. One twist: the lab will be located on the facility’s exterior.

“The exterior of the building will be comprised of Centria products, and the entire building envelope will be installed using sheet metal workers,” Edmonds said. The building will also feature Centria roof and integrated wall, window and louver panel systems for advanced training of apprentices and journey persons as well. “We also are currently in the process of updating or acquiring several new pieces of equipment, including a new hydraulic press brake, power shear and plasma table. The idea is to modernize our training facility and capabilities to recapture market share.”

Local No. 7

The new Local No. 7 training center in Fruitport, Michigan celebrated its first year in July; throughout the last year, as well as during the construction, apprentices and contractors alike took ownership of the project.

The center, which allowed the school to not only double in size, but to own the building rather than lease it, features an open shop floor divided into four sections – light gauge industrial, general work area, fabrication shop and welding booths – in addition to classroom and computer lab. Apprentices completed the layout, fabrication and installation for the welding booths, handrails and stairs. Some of the apprentices also worked for the contractors hired to complete the building.

Apprentices also have been encouraged to bring fully planned building improvement ideas to their coordinator. They have secured resources, and classmates and have managed projects such as welding booth shelving units and design for a welding table that allows debris to fall into a bucket.

“Everyone is really proud that they have a new training center,” said Darek Scarlavai, training coordinator. “You’ll see apprentices pushing the broom at the end of the day because they want to keep this place clean.”

Local No. 359

When contractors signatory to Arizona Sheet Metal Local No. 359 in Phoenix had a demand for apprentices in Tucson, Arizona, located more than 100 miles away, Al Blanco, training coordinator, made it happen.

Through a partnership with IBEW Local No. 570 in Tucson, an 800-square-foot classroom space was rented to house a new seven-student apprenticeship class. John Hauck with R.E. Lee Mechanical serves as the instructor, and the company has agreed to allow apprentices to learn the fabrication and welding portion of the curriculum at the shop, located one block from Local No. 570.

“Work has picked up a lot in Tucson, and companies like Bel-Aire Mechanical, Universal Mechanical and Harris South West Mechanical are now bidding and performing work with R.E. Lee Mechanical, which has always been a Tucson local contractor,” Blanco said. “The Arizona JATC will be looking to have the apprenticeship class reach 16 students for the fall of the 2017-18 training year.”

Do you have a new training center, one in the works or renovations taking place? If so, please submit your news to Focus on Funds for future issues. Send your information or questions to Nadia Zerka at

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 their website or call 703-739-7200.