Recruiters help sheet metal apprentices find their way

Local No. 100 enlists recruiters to bring in quality students, relieve school director

FAIRFAX, Va.  – Colleges have recruiters to bring the best and brightest to their campuses. At the school for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 100 near Washington, D.C., recruiters have been enlisted to reach out to local entities and bring quality apprentices to the industry.

The sole responsibility of recruiting falls on the training directors at many of the unionized sheet metal industry’s 15,000 apprentices at 153 joint apprenticeship training centers in the United States and Canada, which are supported by the International Training Institute for the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry.

“Recruiting isn’t for quantity. It’s for quality,” said Norbert Klusmann, Local No. 100’s training director. “It takes more to go after the quality.”

In 2010, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) for the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry and the Sheet Metal Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) Mid-Atlantic Chapter established a recruitment position to seek the best candidates available for the apprenticeship program. Today, the program hosts two recruiters – Sarah Robinson and Randy Kozik – and continues to forge and expand relationships with schools and community outreach programs thereby allowing the director of the training center to concentrate on the students, instructors and curriculum.

Students who come from a technical academic environment and meet the requirements of the apprenticeship program can enter without taking an entrance exam, a prerequisite for other candidates. Students are recommended by their instructors and assessed by the recruiters who interview them.

“Being able to place those students is important to their teachers,” Kozik said. “The better we can establish these teacher relationships and retain their students for careers, the more qualified applicants we’ll get in the future.”

Candidates also come to the program from recruiting efforts at career fairs and workforce development programs in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia as well as an active member referral programs.

“There are many different avenues and opportunities for people,” Robinson said. “Everybody starts in the same position. Even CEOs started as somebody’s helper.”

Robinson and Kozik maintain constant contact with Klusmann as to what attributes and skills contractors are seeking in their apprentice workforce.

“It allows us to cover more areas for recruiting, and it’s one less thing for me to do,” Klusmann said. “Forging those relationships with school systems can be time consuming. I can’t make some meetings because of what I have to do at the school. Recruiters can make those meetings.”

Where apprenticeship programs often know where to find students, students don’t know much about how to apply for an apprenticeship program. The job of a recruiter is to bridge the gap, educate the school counselors and instructors and find students suited for the program.

“Not everybody is made for college. Maybe they’d do well in a trade,” Kozik said. “There are different routes to take to get a professional career.”

Sheet metal apprentices and classified workers learn skills on the job site, along with a paycheck and a strong work ethic.

“It’s about your character, your values, how you treat people. Do you show up to work on time every day? You still have to pass the test in the apprentice school,” Kozik said. “If you make the effort and you try, you can succeed. We’re advocates for them.”

“We are the welcome committee,” Robinson added. “We make sure they have the minimum qualifications. We get to know them more on a personal level and help promote them for a position with a SMACNA contractor.”

As an apprentice, job and classroom are tied tightly together. If a class is failed, it affects the job, and vice versa.

“Recruiting is a very important part of every school, and in our industry it’s especially important. We’re not just talking about a school, here, we’re talking about an industry that dates back 150 years,” said James Shoulders, administrator of the ITI. “The apprentices are the future of our industry, and if we want the industry to succeed, it starts with the recruiting efforts of each training center. Local No. 100 is at the forefront of this practice and a good example of how to get it done.”

“Recruiters bring people in who are looking for a career,” Klusmann added. “People who walk in the front door are often just looking for a job.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at 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 sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

*Originally run on Eye on Sheet Metal

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