We all know our training centers offer apprentices the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques in a classroom setting augmented by time in the contractor’s shop and/or field. It’s a powerful example of a Registered Apprenticeship Program in motion. And, when done to the best of our abilities, the graduating apprentices are highly skilled and eager to start the rest of their careers.
In this issue of SMACNews, we feature a special JATC training center just outside Cleveland in Parma, Ohio, that stands out and should be a model for other JATCs across the United States and Canada. This training center used to be an average sheet metal apprenticeship school. Now, it has transformed itself into a cutting-edge teaching environment offering the latest and greatest technologies on which to learn. It has even entered into a partnership with Cuyahoga Community College, where trainees can earn credits towards an associate degree.
What’s the secret to elevating a training center to this level? A fully committed JATC that makes it a point to invest in new technology that reflects the future of construction work, such as virtual-reality technology for welding. Another secret is constantly reviewing the curriculum to keep it relevant and current with today’s businesses and job sites.
When JATCs provide the best training resources, they become a powerful recruitment tool for the trade, helping retain apprentices and increasing the skills they acquire prior to graduating. Forward-thinking JATCs, like the Cleveland JATC covered in this issue, take recruitment a step further by connecting the training center with their surrounding communities.
One creative approach to engaging the community is the idea of hosting a camp designed to expose high schoolers in underserved communities to a sheet metal business. This would provide an opportunity for students to test out the trade by providing a place where they can use their hands to build simple projects and get a good feel for what a career in the industry is like. Angie Simon, SMACNA’s past president, created a “playbook” to make running these camps simpler and easier for contractors and training centers to host. To
find out more about the camp, visit: www.smacna.org/be-involved/communities/camps.
Al LaBella, SMACNA President