Members from 13 regions meet twice annually to discuss issues, share information

FAIRFAX, Va. – Even with the evolution of technology, sometimes the flow of communication from the workers on the frontlines to the decision makers in the offices can move slowly. To make sure workers’ voices were heard, the International Training Institute (ITI) established an Advisory Committee in 2012 to bridge the communication gap.

After an open discussion with training coordinators during the 2012 Business Agents meeting, General President Joe Nigro suggested the creation of the Advisory Committee, made up of 13 training coordinators, one elected to represent each region of the United States and Canada.

The committee attends two meetings annually, in April and October, and brings to the table concerns collected from each region’s training coordinators. Training centers across the country take turns hosting the meetings. To date, the committee has met in San Jose, California; St. Louis; Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon. The next meeting will take place in April in Cleveland.

“We needed a voice. We needed to be heard. If an issue comes up, we need to address it. If we’re having a problem in the field, we need to have a voice,” said Bob Dutra, Advisory Committee chairman and training director for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 38.

“Before this committee, there would be the coordinators conference where there would be open discussion when all the coordinators were there, but no one wants to be the guy who’s singled out. Here, we bring it to them as a group. And it’s working.”

Questions and concerns about policies, to solutions, to current problems have all been discussed during committee meetings. Last year, members collectively reviewed the ITI’s Accreditation Criteria and made suggestions on changes to the trustees.

“They appreciate the fact trustees listened and made adjustments accordingly,” said Tim Myres, Advisory Committee secretary and training coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers No. 20 in Indianapolis. “It gets the word of the training center coordinators to the trustees, so they understand what we feel the issues are, and they’re listening. I think that’s a huge accomplishment.”

At first, coordinators across the country didn’t offer up much information about what was going on at their centers. Once they realized they were being listened to, that all changed, Dutra said.

“You can see how it unfolds as you’re sitting there,” he added.

“It does change. I think they’re getting more comfortable as they see things happen,” Myres said.

“You get a group of individuals together, and you can bounce ideas off each other. They listen to what’s going on in all areas of the country. The Advisory Committee is a great group. Everyone steps in and isn’t afraid to say what they think or ask a question without hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s refreshing.”

Nearly 10,000 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, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and industrial industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, 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 or call 703-739-7200.

Article originally run on Eye on Sheet Metal