Service Manager course teaches workers to forge own path

Sheet metal journeymen learn how to open, manage own service shop Dec.10-14

FAIRFAX, Va. – Answering when opportunity knocks is always the first step. For some sheet metal workers, that knocking sound is the Service Manager course, offered by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry. The course gives journeymen the skills and resources to open their own shop or step into managing an existing one, thereby opening their career options.

The course is offered nationally at the request of the training center, and it will be hosted by Sheet Metal Workers Local 103 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, through Friday, Dec. 14, at the Montana State training center, 4 Technology Way in Butte, Mont.

The five-day, 40-hour course, is a pilot program derived from a mix of ITI’s Business 101 course and instructor Darrell Garrison’s personal experience as an experienced service manager and covers everything from creating a business name to hiring personnel with a dose of reality and a bit of encouragement thrown in for good measure.

No matter their ambitions, workers need to be skilled in dealing with vendors and familiar with certifications, day-to-day activities, writing purchase orders and creating documents and spreadsheets. The course allows sheet metal workers to shape their own path – create their own service department, vie for promotion to service manager or start their own service business, a growing market in the industry.

“To be an effective service manager, you have to know every aspect of what makes that company run,” Garrison said. “Sometimes you have to wear a lot of hats.”

In Montana, training coordinator Dale Carpenter saw a niche that needs to be filled in the service industry.

“We figured out only 7 percent of the market share was being done by union workers, and it’s something we wanted to be a part of,” Carpenter said. “And our contractors are open to it, too.”

Two years ago, the training center received the Green Energy Partnership Grant, which allowed it to build service management training among its members.

“That’s over now, but we’re taking it to the next level. I would like to have as many service apprentices as sheet metal apprentices. That’s my ultimate goal. Baby steps, and we’re getting there. There’s plenty of work out there for us,” Carpenter said. “It’s a necessity as our shops change gears and go into the service arena.”

Currently, approximately 28 percent of journeymen in Montana are unemployed, and when sheet metal workers open their own shops or encourage contractors to open service departments, it puts members back to work.

“The whole idea of creating a sheet metal service manager is they are going to hire sheet metal workers as their technicians,” Garrison said. “That puts more unemployed members back to work in an area of the business that greatly needs good people. Some of the people have been out of work long enough to say, ‘Why not? I can hang my own sign. If one guy is in business, that’s at least one sheet metal worker back to work.”

“They have 80 percent of what they need. Darrell (Garrison) is giving them the remaining 20 percent and filling in the holes with those high level service manager skills,” said James Shoulders, executive administrator of the ITI. “They will gain the confidence they need to start their own business or go out and start a service department for an existing union contractor. Either way, they’re increasing and starting a union service business. That’s the idea.”

Training centers interested in the Service Manager course can contact their local training coordinator. At least six members in good standing must be signed up for the course for it to take place in that location. If the local joint apprentice training committee (JATC) supplies the students, Garrison will teach the course.

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) 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 industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Alexandria, Va., ITI 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, visit or call 703-739-7200.

Butte, Dale Carpenter, Darrell Garrison, Service Manager course, Sheet Metal Workers Local 103
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