Inaugural event draws 170 participants from 14 trades
BOILERMAKERS ENGAGED IN apprenticeship training gathered at the first annual Building and Construction Trades Apprenticeship Training Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 12 and 13. North America’s Building Trades Unions sponsored the multi-craft event, which attracted 170 people representing 14 unions involved in the building trades, to share solutions to common issues facing apprenticeship programs. Guest speakers included experts in recruitment and training, educators, and officials from the Department of Labor. Three Boilermakers spoke about recruiting, online training, and financial literacy. Bank of Labor was a sponsor of the event.
BNAP Administrator Marty Spencer said IBB members were able to see what happens at all the levels of the apprenticeship process. “Everyone got to meet their peers, discuss specific issues and establish contacts for the future,” he said. “Nothing but good can come for all of us by sharing each other’s experiences.”
John Ladd, Administrator of DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship, gave an overview of the Obama Administration’s support of apprenticeships, noting that in 2014, it allocated $265 million for registered apprenticeship programs, much of that available to trade unions. Ladd said an annual funding stream of $90 million started this year in an effort to continue to increase the number of apprenticeships in the United States.
BNAP Assistant Administrator Mark Wertz extolled the benefits of Local 169’s (Detroit) annual high school welding competition. The outreach identifies young men and women who already weld and may be interested in apprenticeship. Wertz said the program has been “quite impressive,” with more than 10 percent of the lodge’s 600 members coming from the outreach effort. “Once a student gets involved with the program, they see an opportunity they didn’t see before. The biggest thing [for them] is the job.”
SAIP Bridget Martin stressed the bank’s importance to unions and the need to train apprentices in money management skills. Bank of Labor (where Martin serves as Senior Vice President for Labor Market Development) financed the creation of a financial literacy curriculum, offered at no cost to all crafts. She said apprenticeship programs teach technical skills but often don’t teach financial planning, and because of that, a lot of apprentices drop out of the trades due to cyclical work. “This is about retention,” she said. “It’s not only about your craft. It’s about the future of the Labor Movement.”
Spencer outlined BNAP’s training program and the challenges faced converting to an online learning management system. According to Spencer, the transition took more work than originally expected, because the curriculum had to be updated and rewritten before being adapted to the LMS. The classroom materials are now interactive, and apprentices can access the system any time. The LMS has been in use for two years, and “the program is running phenomenally,” said Spencer. “It allows [apprentices] to have more shop time. We’re definitely getting better Boilermakers out of the deal.”