Sheet metal workers mark first National Apprenticeship Week

This year marked the first National Apprenticeship Week, created by the Department of Labor to raise awareness of the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative. Celebrated Nov. 2-6, the week served as a call to action to increase the use of registered apprenticeships, educate the American public about this form of higher education and expand a talented, skilled workforce in more than 1,000 occupations.

The Department of Labor began its interest in apprenticeships last year, announcing grant opportunities during a visit to Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 17 near Boston.

Third-year sheet metal apprentice Gregory Leonard, left, speaks with Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, center, and John Healy, training coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 17, during a tour of the facility and round-table discussion on Nov. 17, 2014.
Third-year sheet metal apprentice Gregory Leonard, left, speaks with Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, center, and John Healy, training coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 17, during a tour of the facility and round-table discussion on Nov. 17, 2014.

“I call apprenticeship ‘the other college.’ There’s this other college out there. And what’s better about this option is you don’t graduate with $100,000 in debt. You’re earning while you’re learning,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said at the time. “You’ve got this ticket. There’s a bright future, not simply here in Boston, but across the country for people who work with their hands. The sky is the limit.”

Sheet metal training centers held or participated in events across the country to recognize and support National Apprenticeship Week.

Local No. 16, Portland, Oregon
Local No. 16’s Sheet Metal Institute and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. co-hosted an event Nov. 4 to honor women in apprenticeship during National Apprenticeship Week. The event included a tour of the institute, a skills demonstration by Lisa Davis, a journey-level sheet metal worker who graduated from the program; and remarks by Bradley Paul “Brad” Avakian, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Other guests included Elana Pirtle-Guiney, workforce and labor policy advisor; a representative from Gov. Kate Brown’s office; Betty Lock, regional administrator for the United States Department of Labor Women’s Bureau; Shaun Engstrom, apprenticeship program liaison; and Nate Waas Shull and Whitney Grubbs, representatives of All Hands Raised, which works to connect industry and education.

Local No. 17, Dorchester, Massachusetts
The site of Perez’s visit last fall, Local No. 17 near Boston hosted an open house on Nov. 5 in recognition of Apprenticeship Week. The event was free and open to the public.

Local No. 23, Anchorage, Alaska
The Alaska South Central/Southeastern Sheet Metal Workers’ training center worked with Alaska Works Partnership to hold a two-day recruitment and training class, “Build Up Alaska.” Students in the class were introduced to the history of the union, HVAC systems, properties of air, non-HVAC sheet metal work, types of metal, skills needed to become an apprentice, math, career opportunities in the trade, hand tools and equipment. On the second day, with the help of journeymen and apprentices, students created a tool box with a hinged lid or a tool tray to take home.

Local No. 67, San Antonio, Texas
Local No. 67 participated alongside other building trades in an open house, which featured presentations and demonstrations of several registered apprenticeship programs in the San Antonio area. The event, held on Nov. 5, was free and open to the public.

Local No. 104, Bay Area, California
Apprentices competed in an essay contest with the topic, “What does your apprenticeship mean to you?” The top three chosen were awarded prizes. School staff members also attended area events celebrating the day, including for women in the trades held in Berkeley. California Gov. Jerry Brown also made a proclamation recognizing National Apprenticeship Week.

Local No. 124, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
On Nov. 5, Local No. 124 partnered with other building trades to host an open house event, highlighting careers in HVAC, 3D drafting, electrical, plumbing, heavy construction and others.

Local No. 33, Cleveland, Ohio
Local No. 33 celebrated National Apprenticeship Week by hosting the Cleveland Building Trades and pre-apprentices at the training center and union hall in Parma. Students from Max Hayes Vocational High School, Cuyahoga Community College and Cuyahoga Valley Career Center toured the training center, met members of various trades and listened to speakers. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson addressed the group, pointing out a billion dollars is spent annually in total construction costs, and the Community Benefits Agreement the city signed with the Cleveland Building Trades has helped area union construction workers remain employed, keeping that money in the local economy. According to speaker Dave Wondolowski, executive secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, training apprentices costs the affiliated building trades about $7 million per year.

If your local training center participated in an event for National Apprenticeship Week, please share in the comments below.

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