Sheet metal apprenticeship an accredited, honorable education path

Accepted students earn as they learn, graduate four-, five-year programs debt free

FAIRFAX, Va. – The International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, will be an exhibitor at the National School Board Association show in New Orleans Saturday, April 5. This is the ITI’s second year taking part in the show. Representatives will be talking with school board members at booth No. 1109.

Higher education opportunities don’t need to start and stop with colleges and universities. Many students want a career – want an education beyond high school – but either can’t afford tuition or aren’t suited for a classroom or college setting. Those students aren’t lost.

The ITI provides an accredited, challenging four- or five-year curriculum to 153 training centers in the United States and Canada. Students learn about HVAC design, fabrication and installation; testing, adjusting and balancing of air flow in buildings, including fire life safety; architectural sheet metal, sign design and fabrication, welding and industrial sheet metal and building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design, among others.

Apprentices go to school but also learn on the job site, where they are paid to hone their craft. Because training is paid for by the sheet metal general membership in each area, apprentices go to school on the equivalent of a full-ride scholarship, allowing them to graduate from the program with zero college debt.

“We talk about creating millions of shovel-ready jobs for a society that doesn’t really encourage people to pick up a shovel,” said Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” when he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “People are surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage, but they shouldn’t be. We’ve all but guaranteed it.”

Applicants must have a high school diploma, or equivalent, and in many circumstances, pass an entrance exam. Each applicant is evaluated and finalists are fully interviewed and vetted before being accepted into the program.

Sheet metal work isn’t just for men. Women have found the career to fit their needs as well.

“It would be nice if women knew it was an option – and a lucrative option,” said Liz Fong, apprentice at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 66’s training center in Washington. “We can do it. It’s not about being super strong. It’s about working smart. We all – men and women – have strengths and weaknesses. Heavy lifting is just a small portion of what we do as sheet metal workers.”

Apprentices have been training since the union was formed in 1888. Over the last 125 years, members have helped to create some of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks such as the St. Louis Arch, the Time’s Square New Year’s Ball and many professional football and baseball stadiums across the country.

Sheet metal work isn’t just a career. It can be a legacy. Generations of sheet metal workers have made lives and supported families through sheet metal work.

“I’m proud of it. It’s my heritage, my family,” said John E. Williams, a third-generation sheet metal worker. “I’m proud to be a part of the union. The Williams family has always been good sheet metal workers.”

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.

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