Local 10 Sheet Metal Workers’ Mid-Year Skills Competition
Local 10 sheet metal apprentices have been going through their version of mid-term exams. More accurately, it’s a contest between the different classes but it serves an important function – it’s a barometer for each apprentice to check where their skills levels are in the different disciplines that a qualified journey worker needs to know.
During one week in February there were three groups competing. These groups were split up by classes: first year Commercial, second year Industrial and those apprentices in the Architectural sheet metal class.
Each class has different skills associated with common duties and applications in its area of focus. For example, the HVAC apprentices do a “duct run” they would perform in building a residential home. Ducts in a home are those silver-colored ducts near the ceiling that bring air from the air conditioning or furnace throughout a home to keep you cool in the summer or warm in the winter. They draw out the run, lay it out and then build it by bending and installing the metal.
The other classes get judged on the nuances of their specialties. The Industrial class gets tested on their welding abilities. The Architectural class designs and makes a rain cap for a chimney or a furnace exhaust. But what all three have in common is some knowledge in the use of computer assisted drawing (CAD).
“This keeps everybody on their toes and judges where they are at,” says Cory Nelson, Metro Area Sheet Metal JATC apprenticeship coordinator. “The students enjoy the friendly competition. These guys love it.”
Local 49 Apprentice Training Becomes Alternative High School Elective Classes
Through a partnership with Destinations Career Academy at Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA), the Local 49 Operating Engineers union has successfully integrated their curriculum into high schools in Minnesota. This means students can take elective classes, fast-tracking their way into registered apprenticeship within the union.
The program started in the fall semester of 2020. The organizers were told not to hold your breath. Maybe you’ll have a couple dozen students sign up. But surprisingly fifty-seven students signed up. A year later, for the fall of 2021, 148 kids from 73 school districts from 47 counties in Minnesota registered for the program. This spring the numbers increased again, 177 students from 76 school districts.
For the students, it’s a 3-for-1 win-win-win situation. The courses offered count as elective courses on a student’s high school transcript; articulated college credits with North Hennepin Community College; and credit hours towards the Registered Apprenticeship Program with Local 49 once they are signed on with a signatory contractor. Thanks in part to this program, some students that graduated last year are already three quarters of their way through their first year of registered apprenticeship.
One challenge the program needed to address is the budget impact for local school districts. K12 funding follows the students in Minnesota and while these courses are less of an impact than Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) for schools, IUOE Local 49 felt strongly about being solid community partners and with the assistance of industry partners and the MN Legislature, they developed a pool of money to backfill any budgetary impacts to local school districts. Schools are fully reimbursed for the cost of the courses for students that take and pass the courses.
“We’ve seen kids who have not been interested in school find a career path,” explained Jenny Winkelaar, Local 49’s Director of Workforce and Community Development. “I love being able to do this for kids. We are giving them good information at an early stage in their lives, setting them up to make good career and life decisions.”