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Back to work

By Julie Sammarco

U.S. grant helped keep sheet metal pros working

January 2012 - In 2010, the International Training Institute (ITI) for the sheet metal and air conditioning industries was awarded nearly $5 million in Energy Training Partnership grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to train approximately 1,200 unemployed or under employed sheet metal workers for energy-efficient building construction, retrofitting and manufacturing jobs.

The grant, which expires Jan. 13, provided the ITI with newer equipment, new computer gear and training that ultimately helped several sheet metal workers who were affected negatively by the downturn in the automotive sector gain employment in other industries.

It trained sheet metal workers in the areas of Michigan (Detroit, Livonia, Ann Arbor, Warren, Wayne); Ohio (Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Youngstown); Missouri (St. Louis); Illinois (East St. Louis); California (Los Angeles, Anaheim, Long Beach, Riverside, San Bernardino); New Mexico (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces); and Texas (El Paso, Lubbock). Courses that addressed the skills gap of the targeted workforce were administered free of charge for those who registered through the ITI. Training featured three areas of instruction: advanced building information modeling (BIM); HVAC testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB); and phenolic installation.

These courses were an effort in the go-green movement, which broadened and updated students’ training. They also were easy portals for sheet metal workers to access. The only requirement to participate in training was membership in a sheet metal workers union through the ITI.

“It was also an avenue for us to add new computer gear, which we could not have been able to afford, which brought us to a whole new level,” says Steven Murzen, coordinator of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 and a member of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in Warren, Mich.

Looking forward
After the expiration of the grant, “most classes will continue in-house,” says Murzen. “Testing adjustment classes, for example, will still be offered.”

According to Murzen, the ITI is seeking a grant extension because of the ongoing instability in the construction sector and its overall positive impact on those who benefited from training.

With the automotive industry not expecting to gain heavy traction in the upcoming year, this program would likely benefit many others, according to Reuters.

“Automakers forecast slower U.S. sales growth in 2012, even after closing December on a strong note,” according to the Jan. 4 article. “At the lower end of forecasts for 2012, the growth rate would be half of last year’s rate, leaving the industry far short of the nearly 17 million vehicle sales it averaged in a 10-year period through 2007.”

J.D. Power and Associates lowered this year’s forecast to 12.6 million light vehicle sales from a previous call of 12.9 million in the world’s No. 2 market after China and the 2012 forecast to 14.1 million from 14.7 million. Still, the new annual forecast for 2011 is 9 percent higher than 2010.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Energy Training Partnership grant program helped train workers to enter the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries as well as green occupations within other industries. The grants invested in partnerships of stakeholders including labor organizations, public or private employers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries and the workforce system. Bringing together the workforce expertise of these groups allowed grantees to develop programs that are responsive to the needs of both workers and employers and provide participants with the support to successfully complete training. The Energy Training Partnership grants represent $100 million of the $500 million available nationally in Green Jobs training grant funding made available by the Recovery Act. FFJ

 

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