Software revolutionizes how sheet metal workers train, do business

Internet-based TotalTrack brings user friendly interface to training centers

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Since last year, more than half of the 160 unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry’s training centers have implemented TotalTrack, a proprietary comprehensive database system that puts all apprentice and training journeymen information in one place. At the current installation rate, all training centers should be on board in 2014.

The TotalTrack system was developed by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry leadership.

Now that many of the centers are utilizing the TotalTrack system in their day-to-day operations, coordinators have found it fills in blanks of the antiquated standalone systems they used before.

Prior to TotalTrack’s implementation, attendance, work hours, grades and other information was typed into a database by training center staff. With TotalTrack, instructors enter attendance and grades, and apprentices enter their work hours.

Instructors can also communicate with their students on a different level. They can assign more than 100 electronic text books via TotalTrack, allowing students to carry their course materials around on their iPads. Integration for Windows laptop computers and tablets is in the near future.

Additionally, they can use the system’s email and text messaging tools to reach their apprentices and keep them informed.

“Apprentices don’t respond to email. They don’t respond to letters,” said Steve Smith, training coordinator at Local 55 in Spokane, Wash. “You send them a text message, and they get it.”

The software is available via the Internet from smartphones, and tablet and personal computers.

“The best thing is you can access it anywhere you are. The worst thing is you can access it anywhere you are,” joked Michael Kramm, coordinator at Local 67 in Austin. “I can be on the ranch on my tractor. The office is wherever you are. I can get TotalTrack on my phone.”

For Local 10 in White Bear Lake, Minn., TotalTrack brings information to more than 400 apprentices and journeymen, and 35 instructors from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“With apprentices entering their own work hours and the instructors entering the attendance, it’s decreased the foot traffic in the office,” said Kate Mino, Local 10’s information manager. “It’s revolutionized the way we do business here, and it’s just going to get better and better. We’ve just touched the top of it here so far.”

Another center dealing with a vast geographic area – Northern California – is Local 104, Bay Area Training Fund. They’ve been using TotalTrack for the last year with a strong emphasis on the ability to create custom forms. Because they serve more than 6,000 members and five training centers, custom forms have become a lifeline.

The State of California requires proof of apprentices’ on-the-job training hours, and TotalTracks’ forms allow the viewing of all apprentice hours in one place.

“The State of California wants to know exactly what and how we’re training, so it was good timing for us to start using this new tracking system,” said Javier Campos, administrator for Local 104. “It’s a real time saver.”

Having all the information in one area helps the staff see if one apprentice is falling behind on hours in the field or on a skillset in the shop.

“Catching deficiencies on an apprentice early in his career will allow us to work with his contractor to adjust his field or shop process hours to make sure that the apprentice is getting a well-rounded education, which in turn will produce a well-qualified journeyperson,” said Cynthia Ortiz, assistant to the administrator at Local 104. “TotalTrack is not just beneficial for our staff, it is also a life line to apprentices, journeypersons and contractors.”

The integration of TotalTrack not only makes individual training centers more efficient, but it helps the sheet metal and air conditioning industry as a whole use modern technology to its benefit.

“The TotalTrack system is another example of how the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry stays on the cutting edge of technology,” said James Shoulders, executive administrator for ITI. “This technology affords the industry’s journeymen and apprentices the ability to take the industry to the next generation while helping current jobs and projects run at the highest efficiency to date.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. ITI is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) 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 Alexandria, 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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