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An Apprenticeship Program Provides Discipline for an Entire Organization

Gary T Smith

As I sat down with my business partners (and sons) the other day to reflect, as we often do, on the state of our business, it occurred to me that times have been tough for sure, but we are hanging in and it seems we will emerge stronger than ever. Am I bragging? No. Am I proud? For sure!

So, you may ask, why do I feel Thomas Phoenix International is so strong and continuing to grow? It's simple. The discipline and rigor of our apprenticeship program is carried through our entire organization. We have a code we live and work by, but basically it all comes down to safety, education and training. Back in 2005, we worked with the state of New Jersey to get our training program recognized. The U.S. Department of Labor came to understand that we were not iron workers, not carpenters, and not sheet metal workers. We were a trade class all our own. Back in the day, our trade class was considered kind of unique. Today, I am happy to report the "Apprenticeship Program-Assembler, Engineered Metal Building Systems" is not so unique.

In 2009, the Metal Buildings Institute-the educational arm of the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association-worked with the U.S. Department of Labor, ultimately receiving approval and endorsement in early 2010 to administer national guidelines for an apprenticeship program for Assembler Engineered Metal Building Systems. Quite a few companies have jumped on board. The program is taking some heat in some states but will ultimately prevail because training your men and women is always the right thing to do. Right for the crew, right for the job, right for the contractor, right for your bottom line and right for the future of our industry.

So, what exactly is an apprenticeship program for Assembler, Engineered Metal Building Systems? Let's start with a quick explanation of what apprenticeship is:

• It is the premier model for training and educating your workforce.

• It is a highly structured, in-depth vehicle for developing highly skilled workers to your specifications.

• It is industry driven.

• It is the insurance a business needs, now more than ever, to ensure that they have an ongoing stream of talent development that will maximize productivity, reduce turnover, increase the level of safety while reducing workers compensation costs and develop loyalty and dependability in employees.

• It provides a high return on investment.

• It provides national recognition, distinction and added respect for your business among

your industry peers.

In many cases, it is a management training tool as well. Simply put, apprenticeship is a strategic investment in the sustainability and future growth of your company and industry combined.

"Apprenticeship, Assembler Engineered Metal Building Systems" is a nationally recognized program that combines 4,000 hours of on-the-job training with 296 hours of additional learning mainly through the use of the Quality & Craftsmanship DVD Training Series, webinars, classroom and speakers.

The program is gaining ground. I encourage you to check it out so you are not left behind. This past spring, I was invited to speak to the Executive Committee of the Metal Building Manufacturing Association. Several of their members were surprised. Surprised that such a program existed and surprised that we had federal recognition for our national guidelines. All members were impressed and excited about this development. All companies represented at that meeting were supplied with a copy of MBI's Quality & Craftsmanship DVD Training Series. They received a copy of the training guidelines and more importantly, they are working with us to ensure that this program becomes more widely understood and accepted.


Gary T. Smith is president of Thomas Phoenix International Inc., Eastampton, N.J. He serves as chairman of the Apprenticeship Committee for the Metal Buildings Institute, the educational arm of the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association