In July, I spoke at the SMART Business Agents’ Meeting. Following are excerpts of my remarks.
My visit here today is fresh on the heels of SMACNA’s Board of Directors’ Meeting, so I would like to give you a brief report about what occurred.
It is no surprise that both labor and management are experiencing unprecedented industry and market changes. You and I live in fast-paced environments and we all face the same challenges and frustrations.
To address some of these challenges, SMACNA updated its strategic plan and its outlook for the future, of both SMACNA and SMART. Our futures are intertwined, so it is only natural for us to work on critical strategic initiatives together.
On the top of SMACNA’s list is better coordination with our industry partners. Not only does that include SMART, but also our local SMACNA chapters.
During my travels this year, I heard about our contractors’ needs for manpower—both in the shop and in the office. Experienced managers and craftworkers are just plain hard to find. That makes attracting and retaining a quality workforce an obvious goal for SMACNA. We face a very difficult challenge of attracting the right people into construction careers and it has become obvious we can no longer rely exclusively on traditional craftworker recruitment and training of past years.
That is why SMACNA is pleased to support SMART’s new Heroes Program. It will provide sheet metal industry training to enlisted men and women of the U.S. military prior to their being discharged. We believe the program is a dynamic recruitment tool to attract highly qualified candidates to the unionized sheet metal industry.
We are excited that the SMACNA Western Washington Chapter, SMART Local 66, and the Western Washington JATC are supporting the program. We are confident it will be a success and spawn other programs just like it.
Our new strategic plan also indicates we need to do a better job communicating the value of the union sheet metal industry to our stakeholders, both internal and external. We want our messages to be clearly understood and SMACNA and SMART’s value recognized throughout the marketplace. Pursuing an active agenda, such as this, will make us more valuable to the sheet metal industry. The fruits of these efforts should be a win-win for both…SMACNA and SMART.
The SMACNA-SMART Workforce Development Project is another area where our joint labor management endeavors are flourishing. For more than a year Michael Gaffney, a consultant, has designed a program to aid us in understanding the best practices for building and sustaining a local market recovery effort. The Project is assisting pilot labor-management groups in Washington, D.C., Houston, and Atlanta create market solutions that address their specific and very different needs for maintaining and expanding market share. (See related article in August SMACNews.)
The program is collecting and sharing results: both successes and failures; with a focal point presentation slated for the Partners in Progress Conference in Orlando, Fla., this coming February.
I have encouraged my fellow contractors and SMACNA chapters to attend the 2018 Partners in Progress Conference. Nationally, SMACNA and SMART can give lots of labor relations advice, but we know that success requires a combined effort by labor and management back home in the local market.
We are currently enjoying a strong market for our services. However, with a robust construction market comes new challenges, new competitors from outside the industry, and new opportunities to change and grow.
Now is not the time to sit back. We’ve got to get creative and work hard to innovate and position our industry to come out of this surge with greater market share than what we had going in.