It has finally happened. The construction industry has come back to life from one of the longest downturns in history. Even though a few parts of the country are still struggling, many areas are experiencing record levels of construction demand. As in most construction upturns, the conversations turn to the availability of trained, competent workers. In a typical one- to three-year down cycle, many workers leave the construction industry to find employment elsewhere and never return. Since the latest downturn was a lengthy recession, those typical losses were compounded. Now, there are shortages of experienced workers all across the construction industry, especially skilled metal building assemblers.
The Iron Workers International, the National Iron Workers and Employers Apprentice Training and Journeyman Upgrading Department
(Training Department), as well as our labor-management affiliate- IMPACT (Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust), have recognized the demand for workers and have taken multiple steps to increase the number of qualified, experienced and safety-minded ironworkers. Those actions include increasing safety awareness, improving the quality and scope of training, and fostering diversity in the construction industry.
There is nothing more important than the safety of our members. We believe that a safe work environment is the right of all working people; not a privilege. That is why the Iron Workers International has a fulltime safety department with a safety director that has decades of experience. Our safety department works directly with employers and members on safetyrelated issues including OSHA Subpart R (Steel Erection), fall protection, leading-edge protection, decking zones, air sampling for welders and many more.
It is important for employees to understand and use safe work practices on job sites. The Iron Workers and IMPACT are working toward having more safety-trained supervisors on the job to help make sure everyone goes home injury-free each day. To help fulfill this need, we partnered with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) to offer the Safety Trained Supervisor Construction Certification (STSC), administered by the BCSP, which is successfully resulting in a more safetyconscious team of ironworker supervisors.
The Iron Workers International constantly strives to improve the quality of training it offers at our 157 training facilities across the United States and Canada. To keep up with the ever-changing metal building industry, a complete overhaul of the curriculum was needed. We spent several years researching and gathering data to ensure our new manuals incorporated the most up-to-date safety practices, construction methods and technological advances used in the industry. We have combined hands-on training with the new manuals and are procuring metal building mock-ups for our training facilities that do not currently have them to maximize the effectiveness of our training. Our apprentice curriculum includes safety, metal building assembly, rigging, arc welding (AWS Certified), blueprint reading, reinforcing and structural steel assembly to name a few.
For the past 31 years our Training Department has sponsored a train-the-trainer event for all of our instructors and coordinators. In 2015, 425 instructors and coordinators attended classes designed to improve their knowledge of the industry, as well as to make them better educators. Another program was also implemented to send our metal building instructors to one of the major metal building manufacturers’ roof and insulated metal panel
(IMP) courses to enhance their skills as instructors.
In coordination with IMPACT, contractor education programs have also been developed to help new and existing contractors succeed. These programs are designed to work directly with our contractors to improve the skills of their journeymen. By helping contractors send their employees to training courses, we strengthen the metal building industry. Training courses include the Metal Building Manufacturers’ training courses, OSHA 10, OSHA 30, Foreman Training, Superintendent Training, Technology Tools and Field Applications, Job Profits and more. In addition, office staff training includes programs such as Getting Paid, Project Leadership and Management, Construction Sales Skills, Construction Contract Business Fundamentals, Understanding Your Construction Contract and Cost Estimating.
All of the aforementioned courses are available at no cost or minimal cost. We firmly believe that improving the training for both the skilled journeymen, as well as member contractors, will advance the reputation of the metal building industry.
The AC478 accreditation program has been designed to elevate the credibility of the metal building industry. Accreditation will verify the competency of a company as it focuses on the policies and procedures to ensure quality metal building construction. A company’s AC478 accreditation demonstrates its commitment to excellence and its willingness to be held accountable in its effort to assemble quality metal building systems. We fully support AC478 accreditation and are actively working with our contractors to attain accreditation status.
We also recognize the importance of collaborating with progressive organizations to promote quality metal building construction, and encourage teamwork and networking. That is why we encourage our signatory contractors to join the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA).
Veterans and Diversity
Our returning veterans deserve the opportunity to have meaningful employment. “Helmets to Hardhats” is a program designed to help military servicemembers transition back into civilian life by offering them a path to a career in the construction industry. The Ironworkers have teamed up with the Helmets to Hardhats program to actively recruit and give veterans special consideration during our recruiting process.
We also understand that equality and diversity will advance the construction industry. In this time of an increased demand for qualified workers, welcoming individuals from all minorities and sexes makes a wider pool of talent available and increases the presence of under-represented groups. We are actively creating pathways for the men and women in these groups to have construction careers through progressive equality and diversity programs.
We at the Iron Workers International and IMPACT are excited about the future of the metal building industry. By partnering with our contractors we have developed a program to ensure them access to a safe, well-trained, productive and diverse work force. Nationwide new agreements have also been implemented that make it easier for contractors to do business and expand their business, both geographically and by project size. If you would like more information about any of our programs please visit ironworkers.org, impact-net.org or contact me directly at email@example.com.
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David Beard is the metal building representative for the Iron Workers International and president of Iron Workers District Council of St. Louis and vicinity. He spent 24 years working in the field and has been active in union leadership since 2003.