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Ironworkers - Ready for the Future

David Beard, Posted 06/01/2017

David BeardThe 2017 North American Iron Workers IMPACT Conference was held in San Diego the last week in March and proved to be the best attended conference to date. With over 1,100 attendees, more than half were owners, contractors and other industry professionals. No matter the role each attendee plays in the industry, there were benefits in the numerous breakout sessions for everyone:

  • Owners were able to share their ideas, goals and needs. They also heard how the ironworkers answer the demands for outstanding quality, superior safety records, and strive to deliver world-class productivity.
  • Contractors had the opportunity to hone their business skills while acquiring tools to work safer and improve productivity. They were able to communicate what is essential to meet their needs in the future especially in safety and training.
  • Ironworkers came face-to-face with hundreds of contractors who want to hire trained, highly skilled and safe workers. They heard how owners and contractors alike want projects done on time and professionally with quality of the utmost importance.

Each annual conference is hosted by the Iron Workers International and their labor management affiliate, Ironworkers Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT). It is a great opportunity to network with powerful, knowledgeable and influential people in the ironworking industry. Planning is already underway for the 2018 conference, which will be held in Florida next spring.

 

Safety is Number One

As always, safety was the number one topic of the conference. Ironworkers believe that all workers should be provided a safe job site, and that both employees and contractors need to understand and practice safe work practices. Our full-time safety department is second to none in developing and implementing programs that satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. They work directly with contractors and members on safety-related issues, such as OSHA 10, OSHA 30, Subpart R (Steel Erection), fall protection, scaffold training, fork truck, hazmat, lead, decking zones and many more.

The Iron Workers International has partnered with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) to offer the Safety Trained Supervisor Construction Certification (STSC). This partnership has resulted in a more safety-conscious team of ironworker supervisors with more than 540 becoming certified since its inception.

 

A Trained Work Force

One of a contractor's most valuable assets is a well-trained workforce. Last year the ironworkers operated 154 training centers across the U.S. and Canada, and spent more than $80 million training nearly 14,500 apprentices and providing upgrading courses for journeymen. Our training department continually updates the curriculum to meet the demands of contractors and owners. They work hand-in-hand with government as well as private accrediting agencies so our members can become certified in a number of skills. Not only does a certification reward the ironworker for his or her efforts, a certification also provides a contractor with assurance that the ironworker is able to satisfy the specialized skills with expertise and safety.

 

Contractor Programs

The Iron Workers and IMPACT believe the AC478 accreditation program will elevate the credibility of the metal building industry. The result will be quality buildings erected in the safest possible way. To assist in the full implementation of AC478 for a limited time, IMPACT will reimburse our contractors the cost of obtaining the AC478 accreditation.

We have also partnered with a major metal building manufacturer to offer its standing seam roof and insulated metal panel (IMP) training courses directly to our contractors. By holding the training at a contractor's shop or one of our training facilities, employees receive the best training available with minimum disruption to a contractor's schedule. Again, IMPACT provides this service at no cost to the contractor.

 

Recruitment and Diversity

It seems there is an article in every construction magazine on the difficulty of finding qualified applicants. We know that if you want quality employees, you have to go find them. Our locals and apprenticeship committees do not just advertise for applicants, they hold career fairs in schools across the country. This not only helps with getting our message out to people that have no idea what opportunities exist in the construction industry, it also helps us recruit a diverse workforce. We tell the students that if they are willing to work hard, show up every day and learn, we will prepare them for not only a job but a lifetime career they can be proud of.

We have also teamed up with Helmets to Hardhats. Helmets to Hardhats is a construction industry initiative that provides career opportunities to men and women who are veterans of the armed forces. Former military men and women are an important source for skilled workers. The program bridges the gap between the military and apprenticeship programs at appropriate levels, and helps to evaluate military experience and training. This bridge greatly benefits both veterans and the building trades. It helps in the workforce shortages that threaten the maintenance of infrastructure throughout the United States, and gives former military personnel a chance at a rewarding and challenging career.

The Iron Workers Union and IMPACT introduced its new paid maternity leave benefit at the 2017 conference. As the first paid maternity program in the building trades, the announcement was well received by both ironworkers and contractors. The new benefit demonstrates the Iron Workers Union's effort to make the industry a level playing field for women, and makes inclusion of all people a priority.

The physical work associated with the ironworking trade can prove to be extra challenging during a pregnancy. The paid leave includes a pre-delivery and post-delivery benefit, which will help alleviate the problem of a woman having to decide between her health and a paycheck when she is pregnant.

We at the Ironworkers International and IMPACT are excited about the future of ironworking and the metal building industry. By partnering with our contractors we have developed a program to ensure access to a safe, well-trained and diverse work force. If you would like more information about any of our programs, please visit ironworkers.org, impact-net.org or contact me directly at dbeard@iwintl.org.

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David Beard is the metal building representative for the Ironworkers International and president of Ironworkers District Council of St. Louis and Vicinity. He spent 24 years working in the field and has been active in the union leadership since 2003. 

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