Local #33 training center earns Best New IPAF Training Centre of the Year

FAIRFAX, Va. – In all, 13 awards were given at the International Awards for Powered Access (IAPA) in Miami on March 26, but for unionized sheet metal workers in Cleveland, they were hoping for one in particular – Best New IPAF Training Centre of the Year.

Instructors from the Cleveland training center accepted the award that night on behalf of the Sheet Metal Workers Local #33, Cleveland District Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). The training center is the first of its kind in the United States to earn the distinction.

“It is one thing to get internal recognition. It would be neat. But this was over the top, because it wasn’t sheet metal or building trades giving the awards. It was different,” said John Nesta, training coordinator at the Cleveland training center. The award helps to show the international industry how sheet metal workers are trained. “We’re using an internationally recognized program and trying to push it forward.”

The annual awards, organized by KHL Group’s Access International and Access Lift and Handlers magazines and the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), celebrate best practices and excellence in the powered access industry. This was the first time the awards and subsequent convention were held in the United States.

The Cleveland training center began providing American Work Platform Training (AWPT) last August in addition to the curriculum provided at the center through the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry. The course consists of eight to 10 hours of classroom and hands-on study regarding scissor and boom lifts. In Europe, aerial lift operators are required to have a license in order to use the lifts, which is not the general rule in the United States.

Local #33’s training centers in Cleveland and Toledo offer the training along with Local #73’s center in Chicago. They are the only sheet metal worker training centers to offer the training and a member of a cadre of 27 general training sites across the United States.

The license earned during the training is becoming a sought-after tool as many projects are beginning to require workers to have it in order to work on sites where only scissor and boom lifts are used, Nesta said.

The training course at the sheet metal workers training centers was created by the IPAF to meet OSHA and international standards.

“In Europe, this is like a driver’s license,” Nesta said. “With our guys, it was based on who taught you – if you had a good person, you knew what you were doing. If you didn’t, you were flying by the seat of your pants.”

For members of Local #33, the license is another tool to have in their belts and makes them more employable to contractors. Aerial lifts are used in the automotive industry as well as hospitals, plants and other large commercial buildings. Many projects are starting to implement the “ladders last” policy on job sites, which means aerial lift licensing and safety is required, Nesta added.

“The workers who’ve been through the course have been grateful,” said Nesta who, along with his instructors, also took the course. “We walked out of the instructors’ course amazed at what we were supposed to be doing, and we are passing that knowledge on to our students.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at 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.