Partners in Progress Conference Fosters Cooperation

Industry and labor stakeholders come together in Las Vegas to discuss topics that are impacting the sheet metal industry and its workforce.

Mike Coleman and SMACNA President Al LaBella

Representatives from SMACNA and SMART met in Las Vegas for the 2022 Partners in Progress Conference. Partners in Progress is an opportunity for labor and management to meet, build stronger relationships, and learn about emerging trends and issues within the industry. The group also focuses on finding solutions to current and evolving challenges.

Attendees heard from several thought leaders, including Commander Mike Abrashoff (USN, Retired), Lt. General Ronald Bailey (USMC, Retired), and former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott. The speakers focused on common themes such as leadership, developing talent, and remaining resilient despite the adversity brought on by current circumstances. In terms of leadership, Lt. General Bailey told the attendees: “A good leader is knowledgeable, takes care of their people, and enables their people to get better.”

In addition to featured speakers, the breakout sessions tackled various topics that are important to both business owners and union leaders. One of the primary topics was cultivating productive and transparent relationships between contractors and labor. One of the presenters was Matt Terek from McKinney’s. Matt laid out the need for maintaining an active dialogue between all stakeholders, stating that “Hope is not a strategic plan; you have to build relationships.” 

Commander Mike Abrashoff

Another focus was on developing the workforce, especially younger workers. Kyle Tibbs from SMACNA St. Louis detailed how important it was that both contractors and unions embrace the younger generation and adapt their staffing approach. “This generation is different from previous ones; they are more focused on the work/life balance, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to work hard; they just want to take a moment to experience what else life has to offer.”

Lt. General Ronald Bailey

Emerging Leaders from both management and labor were selected to come to the program free of charge. The Emerging Leaders at the program not only attended sessions, there was a session and reception devoted exclusively to them.  Al LaBella challenged them to network and get to know people different than you from other areas of the country. The program gave them the opportunity to learn more through interacting with more senior attendees and engage with them on strategies that can help all stakeholders succeed. 

Jim Abbott

Another area of emphasis was promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the trade. Multiple speakers paid particular attention to identifying and eliminating gender and racial biases in all aspects of business operations, whether during the recruiting process or the day-to-day management of their businesses. Julie Muller, Executive Director for SMACNA Western Washington, emphasized the need for heightened diversity in their workplace, stating that “Creating a diversity plan isn’t a straightforward recipe. It’s an ever-changing design. Figure out what works for your area and what doesn’t.”

Finally, Partners in Progress joined with Project 150 to improve the lives of homeless high school students. Throughout the conference, attendees gave generously to the cause, which aims to address some of the critical needs of these high-risk students, including improving access to food, toiletries and other necessities.