Apprentices help put training center back together after fire

Sheet metal workers invest in their careers with renovated school in Troy, Mich.

FAIRFAX, Va. – The sheet metal apprentices in Troy, Michigan learn all forms of the trade while in the four-year program. This year, apprentices also learned how to put their training center back together after a fire last August destroyed the union offices and heavily damaged the center.

“Every tile, every light in the whole place had to be replaced,” said Kevin Stanbury, training director for the Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 292.

Contents lost totaled $70,000 for the training side, $50,000 for the union side. The rebuilding of the union side of the building, as well as the renovation of the training center, will cost $1.5 million, including contents.

With the training center under 6 inches of water, all equipment, furniture and paper had to be taken out, and what was salvageable had to be cleaned and moved back inside the building.

This gave Stanbury an idea – to create a training center from scratch he and his apprentices could take ownership of and be proud to inhabit. For months, apprentices helped clean, paint, build shelves and welding booths, and move equipment into the fixed building.

During the project, Stanbury played contractor while he appointed different foremen on different days, so they would all learn how to lead their peers.

“They were in charge of the project, of course with my supervision,” Stanbury said. “There were a lot of things they were able to do they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Imagine every nut and bolt was gone. They had to re-do everything. It was my vision to get it done, but they did the work. They realized the value we’ve added to the school, making it a better place to learn.”

The project allowed apprentices to continue their schooling instead of delaying it until the building was up and running. In addition to refurbishing the training center, first-year apprentices, for example, moved to another building to learn computer skills usually saved for the second or third years of the program.

“It was a group effort. Everyone’s opinion counted as to how everything was going to fit back together,” said Mark Graves, a first-year apprentice. “Instead of delaying it and letting us sit home for four or five months, they stepped us up until we could go back and continue with the program. I think they handled it very well.”

“We have some great workers,” Stanbury added. “They definitely learned along the way.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at the 153 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).  

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

*Originally run on Eye on Sheet Metal

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