Internet-based system simplifies workflow, increases efficiency at centers nationwide
FAIRFAX, Va. – In today’s unionized sheet metal industry, tools are not limited to snips, hammers and welding equipment. Technology plays a key role in everything from designing HVAC systems to monitoring and contacting apprentices, grading exams and tracking work hours. TotalTrack simplifies the work of instructors and training coordinators, allowing them to spend more time with students and less time doing paperwork.
In the last two years, 129 training centers for the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry have implemented TotalTrack, a proprietary comprehensive database system that puts all apprentice and training journeymen information in one place. The first centers began using the system in 2011.
The TotalTrack system was developed by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry leadership.
“Within a week of its installation, my secretary was singing its praises,” said Alan Still, training director for the Atlanta Local No. 85 training center. “The instructors picked up on it right away. They love it. It’s made my job so much easier, and it’s better, by far, than anything we had before.”
Because TotalTrack is Internet-based, it doesn’t need to be installed on a computer network or require upgrades usually associated with an implementation of this size. Instructors, coordinators and students can access TotalTrack from anywhere they have Internet capabilities. Instructors can work on lesson plans, students can receive messages and homework assignments, and coordinators and administrators can check hours from anywhere, which frees instructors to do work at home.
“Once instructors upload their coursework for the school year, they don’t have to hunt and find papers for the next year because it’s all in TotalTrack,” Still added. “I used to have to do double work. Now, they enter it straight into TotalTrack, and I don’t have to fool with it.”
Cheryl Green, administrative assistant for the Local No. 17 training center in Boston, used to have to call members one by one to let them know about a meeting or change of schedule. TotalTrack streamlined a once daunting task.
“I have a lot of communication with the apprentices. If we have a union meeting, I can send a text message to every apprentice through TotalTrack. I don’t have to call each of them like I did in the past,” she said. “It used to take hours and days. You can leave them a text message or email. You can even leave a voice mail. I pre-record myself. They can’t hide from me.”
On the administrative side, the system also makes it easier to manage payroll, which is calculated using student attendance and work hours attached to personnel files. These are all tracked using one system and no paperwork. Instead of hunting through filing cabinets for a personnel folder, a transcript of an apprentice’s work can be printed from TotalTrack. Less paperwork and less hunting makes for happy and efficient employees.
“I can go onto TotalTrack, and the instructor has already entered the attendance. I can just enter it straight into my payroll,” said Patti Smart, office manager and bookkeeper for the Local No. 17 training center. “Before, I had a piece of paper with the attendance on it. For me, this makes it a lot easier. You have it all right there in one program, one place. If you need to look up an apprentice, it’s all right there.”
The best part about the system is it was free to all training centers and fully customizable to each one. Although some forms are templates, centers were encouraged to have their own forms created and share ideas for new templates. Overall, the reviews have been positive.
“It has absolutely changed our apprentice program for the better,” Still said. “It’s changed the way we do everything.”
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.