Says Bob Chason, “Each year the shortage of qualified employees increases. To improve the situation, we must have qualified technicians. To get them we have to pay better, treat them better, and provide better benefits. But one of the biggest benefits will be training.”

Steve Faulkner recommends other chapters get busy developing their own programs. “Where tech schools exist, the program may not satisfy your needs. With your own program, you have input about guidelines and curriculum.”

Adds Richard Foard, “There’s a strong reason for local chapters to implement such a program. As a drawing card, it will build membership.”

If your chapter isn’t involved in an organized training program, Steve Denny says, “Shame on you. Find out what others are doing, and copy that. Then get creative.”

For ACCA chapters and others who want to be part of the solution, Chason and others recommend these steps:

  • Get in touch with the state board of apprenticeship and training. Knowing state guidelines and regulations will save you time and energy.

  •  If possible, get help from another chapter that has a program in place.

    Says Foard, “I know our chapter would be willing to assist. We have a lot of time and energy invested in the program.”

  •  Consider as a resource the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Call 202-219-5000 and ask for Employment and Training. (This Department can be hard to reach.)

  •  Affiliate with a local accredited college or high school with facilities for training. Staff there can be a big help in developing curriculum and putting the pieces together.

    Says Foard, “We were lucky to find Hartford Community College. They courted us. They have been very supportive. Our students have full campus privileges.”

  •  Consider location; try for one that’s easily reached. Otherwise, people may be unwilling to travel.

  •  Expect to lose money for four or five years.

  •  Have a solid plan in place for recruiting.

  •  Anticipate members’ concerns that this company will pay for training, only to have the new journeyman jump ship.

    Says Cook, “There’s little to no concern around here that a newly trained person will be stolen by a competitor. When there is a transfer, the new employer will typically pick up half the cost of training or something like that.

    “Our company has paid another company for the investment they had in an apprentice who came over to us. Why not develop a gentlemen’s agreement among contractors?”

  •  Plan for simple-but-regular communication among trainee, instructor, and sponsor. It could prevent problems.

    For example, if the student has no opportunity to practice on the job what he’s learned in class, someone, perhaps the advisory committee needs to be notified. The solution could be transferring him to another sponsor.

    Maryland students keep track of hours and what kind of work they are doing. That report goes to the chapter.

  •  Consider wages.

Says Chason, “We’re obligated that when he [or she] starts, the apprentice makes 55% of the average journeyperson’s wages. That percentage will escalate until, at the end of four years, he’ll be earning the journeyperson’s full wage.”

Steve Faulkner challenges, “If you don’t do this, who will?” Why not be part of the proactive team that makes good things happen for the industry?

Sidebar: How contractors can ensure trainees' success

Contractors can do a lot to move the student toward their joint goals. Some delegate this responsibility. But however it happens, it needs to happen.

Ken Cook takes time during the workday to review and reinforce what the trainee is learning in class. “The program is set up with the expectation that the apprentice will be able to apply on the job what he learns in class.”

Steve Faulkner says, “As he finishes each step in the program, we evaluate his pay.

“Also, we try to coordinate on-the-job [JOT] training with what he’s learning in class. When he studies heat pumps, for example, and we have a heat pump installation, I’ll put him on that job. It won’t always work out, but we try.”

Says Elolf, “The college encourages us to come visit the school to see what the student is doing. That’s important. I need to do that.”

Faulkner visited the school and found that the classroom and labs were first-rate. “Our suppliers have furnished equipment, and we have tons of equipment trainees can tear apart and put together.”