Autodesk, sheet metal workers reach agreement for software discount

Necessary software titles no longer cost prohibitive for more than 150 schools

FAIRFAX, Va. – For years, directors at training centers across the country have all dealt with the same problem – how to keep up with technology and software in the workplace if purchasing the software to train students is cost prohibitive? As technology in the industry progressed, training centers paid $4,500 per seat/license for each software title, spending tens of thousands annually just to stay current and with no discount in sight.

Thanks to a recent agreement with Autodesk Inc., the industry leader in three-dimensional design and engineering software, 153 unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry schools across the United States will be able to pay a yearly fee of $1,000 per license for up to 25 seats for essential software such as Navisworks, Revit and AutoCAD.

Sheet metal workers use software such as AutoCAD to create three-dimensional designs of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial buildings.

More than 100 training centers in the United States teach at least one title in the Autodesk library. At a training center with a 20-computer lab, $90,000 would be paid for one title, not including costs to update the software to the newest version. With the new agreement, it’s possible for a single training center to save more than $1 million over the course of the next decade.

Trustees from the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, charged Michael Keane, ITI director of building information modeling technologies, to pursue the agreement. The ITI provides the curriculum taught at the sheet metal training centers.

“More of them have wanted to teach Revit and Navisworks and couldn’t afford it,” Keane said. “It’s a pretty big deal.”

Keane’s job was to educate Autodesk executives about the labor trades and how they use the company’s software in training and in the workplace.

“At a college or a university, those people who are training in that software won’t necessarily all use the software in their careers. We’re training people for real work. If they’re excluding the people who are doing the work, they’re missing out,” Keane said. “I think they’re in a great situation with us. It awoke them to what we’re doing and how serious we are about the industry.”

Keith Dias, training director at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 104’s training centers in San Francisco, San Mateo and North Bay counties in California, has been waiting for the agreement to be finalized for years. He estimates $8,000 to $10,000 will be saved at each of his training centers from the start.

“That’s $25,000 to $30,000 we’ll be able to save, and we will be able to upgrade the software every year,” Dias said.

Dias has a list of titles he’s waiting to install in 16 computer labs in each school. Each lab will host two to three classes a week for more than 500 apprentices and any journeyman who needs a refresher course or new software training.

“We have to be able to train with the latest and greatest software,” Dias said. “If we weren’t, we’d be falling behind on the job site and in training. Now that we’ll get (the software) for $1,000 (per seat/license), it’s huge. I have brand new computers to load it on, and I have members calling to want to train here. So, we’re ready to go.”

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 or call 703-739-7200.