Knowledge keeps workers competitive, employable during down economy
ALEXANDRIA, Va. ‑ Technology today plays a key role in many businesses, and the sheet metal industry is no different. When it comes to building information modeling (BIM) software, knowledge can be the deciding factor in a project’s success.
Benchmark (formerly CCS) is the International Training Institute’s proprietary BIM training software, offering modules in detailing and fabrication with additional modules on the horizon. Once apprentices and journey persons become trained and certified on the software, it makes them more employable, allowing them to hit the ground running on whatever commercial BIM software program a contractor is using.
As more and more contractors transition into a BIM environment, certification becomes increasingly important. Without certification, contractors are left to guess the detailer’s level of knowledge, which can impact a project’s bottom line.
“A good detailer can save a contractor and the project a lot of money. A bad detailer can cost them money,” said David Eisman, applications support for Dynamic Systems Inc. in Austin, Texas. Experience is one thing, but certification means something much different. “This way, the contractor who hires the detailer knows exactly what they’re capable of doing.”
There are currently five regional JATCs, or training centers, offering the week-long BIM certification courses at various times of the year. Training is free of charge to all Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) members in good standing, although some prerequisites, such as working knowledge of AutoCAD, are required. The training centers are located in Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles and Albuquerque.
Dave Wessel, HVAC designer and detailer with National Heating and Ventilating in Albuquerque, NM, attended the first detailing class with 12 other detailers in St. Louis in 2009. The course served a need for his employer, but in the process, Wessel became a valuable asset. Detailers who graduate from the course receive the Benchmark software.
“We had wanted to design in 3D and download to the plasma cutter, but we didn’t have the means,” he said. “We were talking to some companies … and we were looking at $30,000 for the software, so it was worth our while to do it. We have had jobs we couldn’t have done without the software and training I received. We would’ve been dead in the water. The training has not only opened the doors for me but the company as well.”
Sean Murck, HVAC designer and detailer for NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services in Vadnais Heights, Minn., is constantly looking for ways to improve his education and gain opportunities. When business is slow, he also is a consultant for Benchmark.
“I think if I was still drafting 2D I wouldn’t be employed anymore,” he said. “It’s huge for your employment to have this training. You get a whole drafting department in one move when it normally takes years to build one with talent and software.”
When working on a project, Murck finds it easier and less expensive to fabricate in his company’s shop and transport to the jobsite instead of creating in the field. This way, hiccups are found earlier on and the client is happy because the work is moving at a quicker pace.
“You can’t prefabricate projects without using BIM or 3D,” he added. “Anything you can fabricate in the shop costs you a third less than to do it in the field. Your time in the field is much shorter, and the customer is happy because one day they barely have walls up and soon after your part is almost complete.”
Certified detailers will likely be more in demand in the coming years, as the need for their skill set is on the rise. More private sector and government projects require certification as part of the bidding process.
“Software certification adds credibility to a member’s knowledge and makes him or her more employable than someone without the certification,” Eisman said. “It also identifies workers who care enough about their careers to go back to school and increase their skill levels.”
More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The International Training Institute (best known as ITI) is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). ITI offers 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.
Those interested in earning Benchmark training software certification should visit the International Training Institute website at www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.