The year 1888 was a notable one: Congress created the Department of Labor, Van Gogh cut off his left ear, Tchaikovsky’s “Fifth Symphony” premiered, Jack the Ripper terrorized London, the USC Trojans played their first football game and Thomas Edison filed a patent for the optical phonograph (the first movie). It was also the year what is now the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) was formed, and this year it celebrates its 125th anniversary.
On Oct. 14, joint apprenticeship training centers across the United States and Puerto Rico celebrated by opening their campuses to students and their families, school counselors, veterans, architects, contractors, politicians and anyone interested in learning more about the sheet metal and air conditioning industry.
Training centers offered guided tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities to get decision makers and future students in touch with the education offered in four- and five-year programs across the nation. The idea was to demonstrate that becoming an apprentice takes as much intelligence and skill as it does physical ability.
“Everything is about the math and how to find angles. You’ve really got to use your imagination,” Chris Caricato, training coordinator in San Diego, told the Mission Courier Times. “You have to be able to see things in three dimensions.”
San Diego’s Local 206 hosted one of the industry’s largest turnouts for the day and was visited by members of two city councils, assembly and senate as well as the police chief, educators from local school districts and board members from local and state entities. Heads of local contracting firms and companies as well as the ACLU, among others, also were in attendance.
In Austin, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, local media coverage helped to gain the training centers extra attention. Spanish and English language television news and newspapers drew possible apprenticeship candidates and others to the centers.
The front page story in the Dayton Daily News helped draw approximately 100 people to the open house including 60 possible and future students. The center saw twice as many applicants as usual for their monthly application acceptance with 90 percent of the applicants saying they heard about the apprenticeship by attending the open house or through the media coverage, said Eugene Frazier, training coordinator for Local 24.
“We’ve gotten some great applicants from it,” said Michael Kramm, training center coordinator for Local 67 in Austin. “We made really good contacts. It got the word out. We’re still getting calls from the spot that ran on TV. Apparently, people just don’t watch news on the TV. They watch it on the computer. They’re just now seeing it. Everything that has come out of it has been positive. I can’t say anything negative.”
Some of America’s most recognizable landmarks were built by unionized sheet metal workers, including the St. Louis Arch, the Times Square New Year’s Ball, and professional and college stadiums across the country, such as Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
For more information about higher education in the unionized sheet metal industry, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org.