Speaker Makes Recommendations for Sheet Metal Industry

November 22, 2006
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PHOENIX - In his talk "Meeting Future Workforce Needs" at the 2006 Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) convention, speaker William Maloney provided 68 recommendations, each designed to improve the current conditions in the sheet metal industry.

In order, they are:


  • 1 – Contractors must stop abdicating their responsibilities in the workforce development process to the local union.

    "It's time to put the ‘j' back in Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee," said Mahoney.

  • 2 – Establish a mechanism for removing unprofessional and unproductive workers from the eligible list to free up available hours for the more productive and professional members and create opportunities for new workers.

  • 3 – Establish a formal five-year apprenticeship, with the fifth year designated as a probationary period. Mahoney added that it should be employment at-will during the first year. He also encouraged that there must be a time to closely scrutinize the apprentice, in order to be sure "he/she will be a true professional."

  • 4 – Redesign the apprenticeship program to make at least part of it self-paced. The goal of the apprenticeship program, Mahoney explained, is to provide a worker with the skills necessary to perform his job. "If a worker can acquire those skills faster than another, why should that worker have to wait until a specified period of time has elapsed?" he asked his audience.

  • 5 – Create the position of director of outreach and recruitment. He cautioned that this should be a JATC position, and not an SMWIA member.

  • 6 – Establish an annual Workforce Development Workshop for JATCs, including the training director (apprentice coordinator) and the director of outreach and recruitment. This way, said Mahoney, best practices could be shared, plus problems and issues could be jointly explored.

  • 7 – Establish an online list serve for JATCs, including the training director and the director of outreach and recruitment. This, he explained, would be useful between workshops.

  • 8 – Create a social network map of the members of the local union and the local SMACNA chapter. This would create a network of organizations in which sheet metal people participate, he said. It could also serve as potential recruiting sites, he added.

  • 9 – Where it is in use, create a role in the outreach program for apprentices participating in the Youth to Youth program. Mahoney pointed out that the paper written by Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) General President Michael Sullivan, which was presented at the National Labor College, cites recruitment as a valid activity.

  • 10 – Create a national effort to develop a uniform body of literature about the industry, occupations, and opportunities. In his estimation, there is a tremendous variation in the quality of literature currently available. He thought the Associated Builders and Contractors' Website (www.abc.org) was a good place to review for content and to mimic.

  • 11 – Develop a professionally conducted job analysis and job description. In other words, what are the actual physical requirements? What are the actual education requirements? "The bottom line: Stop the guessing," he said.

  • 12 – SMACNA and the SMWIA must push for the establishment and maintenance of a professional work environment and professional behavior on all sites. As Maloney explained, "High pay requires professionalism."

  • 13 – Establish partner ships with the following: for awareness, familiarization, and recruiting purposes:

    - Boy Scouts of America

    - Girl Scouts of America

    - Exploring posts

  • 14 – Work with local school systems to create opportunities for students to learn about construction and the opportunities available within it. Some of those programs, according to Maloney, include "If I Had a Hammer," "From Crayons to CAD," "Buildup," career summer camps, vocational high schools, and charter schools for trades.

  • 15 – Develop a program in sexual harassment and discrimination and their prevention. "Require all members of the SMWIA and SMACNA contractor personnel to complete it," he said. "Repeat it as necessary."

  • 16 – Where at all possible, a woman should not be assigned as the only woman on a jobsite to minimize the feeling of isolation.

  • 17 – Develop a program in cultural awareness and sensitivity. "Require all members of SMWIA and contractor personnel to complete it," said Maloney. "We've gone from the old world to the third world!"

  • 18 – Draft a policy and develop a program on sexual harassment and gender discrimination prevention that would be included in the local collective bargaining agreement.

  • 19 – The SMWIA should include a section in its constitution on sexual, gender, and racial harassment and discrimination, including mechanisms for enforcement.

  • 20 – Professionally design and develop a highly interactive demonstration of sheet metal work. "This may be video," said Maloney. "The Millennial Generation is most technologically literate. They demand stimulation."


  • 21 – Provide a mechanism whereby apprentices can obtain financial assistance in paying for tools, clothes, boots, books, initiation fees, school costs, etc. "The financial requirements may drive away good potential apprentices," he said.

  • 22 – Develop and implement a program in which teachers and guidance counselors are brought to training centers and job sites to develop a better understanding of sheet metal work.

  • 23 – Develop a Web-based application process that facilitates the timely and effective processing of applications.

  • 24 – Develop a mechanism whereby an applicant approved for admission to the apprenticeship program is hired immediately.

  • 25 – The primary focal point for recruitment should be high schools and vocational-technical schools at the secondary level and community and technical colleges at the post-secondary level. "We need top-quality apprentices," said Maloney.

  • 26 – Negotiate arrangements with local community/technical colleges that create a link whereby apprenticeship courses may be accepted for credit toward an associate's degree. "This is useful in recruiting," he pointed out.

  • 27 – Focus on identifying persons with a strong work ethic. "This is critical," said Maloney.

  • 28 – Create a position within the SMWIA that reports directly to the general president to provide advice on female and minority issues. "Such a position should also be created with each local union," he added.

  • 29 – The SMWIA must appoint a representative to the Building and Construction Trades Departments' Committee on Woman in the Trades.

  • 30 – The local union and the contractors' groups must undergo an in-depth analysis of their membership to identify the gender and racial composition of the industry.

  • 31 – Create programs within the SMWIA similar to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). According to Maloney, this means having a women's conference.

  • 32 – Establish a national point of contact to serve as the liaison between SMWIA/SMACNA and national organizations dealing with minority and female workforce issues.

  • 33 – Work with the general contractor or construction manager to create site welfare facilitates that reflect the needs of women.

  • 34 – Establish relations with minority and female labor-affiliated organizations to provide the opportunity and basis for a dialogue on minority and female issues. This lists includes Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

  • 35 – Establish partnerships with minority and female neighborhood or community-based organizations committed to workforce development and the access of minority and female workers to good-paying jobs. Maloney said the Urban League could be one alliance.

  • 36 – Establish partnerships and/or sponsor programs with programs not connected with schools that are forced on young girls.

  • 37 – Identify a female and minority sheet metal worker who has the experience and credibility to serve as role models. "Use them in appropriate programs," said Maloney.

  • 38 – Develop an occupational fitness program for all women.

  • 39 – Meet with the makers of sheet metal hand tools to discuss problems that women have with smaller hands have with using the hand tools.

  • 40 – With other industry organizations, meet with manufacturers of work clothes and boots to discuss the problems that females have with finding appropriately sized clothes and boots.


  • 41 – Together with other industry organizations, meet with manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) to discuss the problems that women have in obtaining PPE that fits properly.

  • 42 – Together with other construction industry organizations, pressure the Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct in-depth analysis and reporting of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses to women in the construction industry that result in days away from work.

  • 43 – Together with other construction organizations, develop an ergonomically based training program for material handling for women. "Women have different upper body strength," noted Maloney.

  • 44 – Develop information for women on being a sheet metal worker that presents information on surviving and being successful within a historically male trade.

  • 45 – Establish a program to be conducted by the local union or in conjunction with other local unions of the construction unions that will assist workers in obtaining citizenship.

  • 46 – For areas with a significant Latino/Latina population, develop a training program to educate the union membership and contractor personnel about the Latino/Latina population.

  • 47 – Together with the general contractor, construction manager, and other trade contractors on site, post material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each chemical present on the worksite.

  • 48 – SMACNA contractors, JATCs, and SMWIA local unions must review all communication materials to ensure that they are gender and racially neutral and include positive images of the different faces of workers in all visual materials (visuals, posters, pictures, etc.).

  • 49 – Together with the other construction unions, approach the makers of kids' toys and shows to discuss the creation of a line of construction figures that are ethnically and gender diverse and that represent the various trades in the industry.

  • 50 – Together with other construction organizations, approach the publishers of children's books to arrange for the publication of construction coloring and other books that present a diverse workforce and information about construction processes and occupations targeted at elementary school students.

  • 51 – Create a modern day icon similar to Rosie the Riveter that can be used as a brand for female union construction workers.

  • 52 – Develop a comprehensive study of the financial returns to a sheet metal apprentice and career with a set of their occupations and pathways to those occupations. "Twenty-five percent of jobs do not require a college education," said Maloney, noting the statistics from the Department of Labor. "A lot of college-educated kids are going overseas " for work.

  • 53 – Develop a recruitment incentive program that will provide a reward (monetary or otherwise) to an SMWIA member who recruits an apprenticeship applicant who successfully completes the apprenticeship program.

  • 54 – Prepare a detailed case study of a young person who has had a career whereby he/she moved from apprentice to journey worker and then on to becoming a contractor. "Consider this ‘recruitment aid,'" said Maloney.

  • 55 – Develop a training program for recruitment for all union members and contractor representatives to ensure that a professional, consistent message is delivered.

  • 56 – JATCs must encourage everyone in the union and contractor organizations to participate in the workforce development process.

  • 57 – Develop a contract tracking system to maintain contact with individuals of interest.

  • 58 – Develop a real or simulated work situation within which to evaluate applicants. "Toyota does this, for example," he said.

  • 59 – Improve on-the-job apprentice training by adopting the Transition to Trainer program, developed in Wisconsin.

  • 60 – Develop a more structured and controlled on-the-job training program with appropriate documentation of the hours spent in the various activities.

  • 61 – Develop and implement an extensive and effective training program.

  • 62 – Develop and implement a hazard reporting system in which the person reporting the hazard is free from retaliation.

  • 63 – Establish a training program for forepersons and require its completion as a prerequisite to being a foreperson.

  • 64 – Develop and implement a mandatory mentoring program for all female and minority apprentices. A similar program for female and minority journey persons should be available on a request basis.

  • 65 – Establish with each local union a position of ombudsman, i.e., someone that investigates complaints, reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements outside of the formal system. "You are trying to prevent troubles," said Maloney.

  • 66 – Each local union should establish an office or individual responsible for member assistance to provide assistance with finding childcare, transportation, etc.

  • 67 – Conduct workshops on life skills and financial management.

  • 68 – Create teambuilding opportunities to strengthen the sense of community within the unionized sheet metal industry.

    Publication date: 11/27/2006

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