PAST THE AGE OF 18, A RECENT STUDY SHOWS IT IS CONSIDERABLY MORE DIFFICULT TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE. Yet still, to do so isn’t completely void of possibility; the only real impediment being the vicissitudes of daily living.  

The author of the study, conducted at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), notes: “There’s roughly a period of being a minor that goes up to about age 17 or 18 in many societies. After that, you leave your home, maybe you work full time, or you become a specialized university student. All of those might impact your learning rate for any language,” says Joshua Hartshorne, now assistant professor of psychology at Boston College.

He adds, “It’s possible that there’s a biological change. It’s also possible that it’s something social or cultural.” 

How swiftly sheet metal apprentices can “learn the language” of metal fabrication can be a major determinant of success in the mechanical contracting industry. Which explains why some trade schools are entering classrooms as young as middle school to recruit the next generation of skilled workers — the earlier the better, as the study suggests.

But with biological and cultural forces chipping away at our abilities to latch on to something new, is there any hope for industry veterans, on the brink of retirement, to add to their skills? If there is any hope to be found, it will be at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 88 Joint Apprenticeship & Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to the center’s mission to “equip the next generation of sheet metal workers with a combination of skills and technology from the past, present, and future that assure a secure future for members and employers alike,” our feature story in the new February 2020 issue of SNIPS magazine also highlights how the JATC is helping experienced tin knockers refresh their grasp of fundamental trade skills.

In support of sheet metal training centers across the country, this month we are launching what we hope will be an invaluable recruitment resource. , You will find a list of trade schools to support in your state and a review section where apprentices can give feedback on their apprenticeship experience.

More than anything, the section will serve as a forum where sheet metal professionals can share knowledge on use of technology and discuss how changes to the industry’s core curriculum translate to a modern workforce.

For skilled workers feeling past their prime when it comes to the daily grind of duct fabrication, adding skills such as drafting can give long careers a “second act” — which can feel a lot like learning a second language.

Then again, as much as we emphasize communication and speaking the same language at a job site, our hands are what do most of the talking. Each skilled trade, together, creating from muscle memory something bigger, greater, than themselves is part of what makes the building trades such a great career path. The other part is our universal understanding of great work, which includes safety, productivity and efficiency. No matter the trade. No translation needed.

Read our February 2020 issue of SNIPS magazine