Glenn Parvin, president of Cass Sheet Metal. Photo by Josh Scott.
How SMACNA contractors are supporting new labor initiatives
Emell Derra Adolphus
Last summer, as Jack Knox prepared for his term as president of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), the SMACNA board of directors outlined four strategic initiatives that will guide the organization’s future: human resources, labor relations, member engagement and strengthening SMACNA chapter partnerships.
“Three of the four plans revolved around communications and marketing,” Knox explains. “I would say it’s definitely evolved over the last 18 months. We are seeing a much bigger push in how we communicate and reach people.” An underlying effort in that push is to change the conversation from filling “jobs” in the sheet metal industry to cultivating careers.
At this month’s 75th annual SMACNA convention in San Diego, California, a solution to an industry-wide shortage of labor shortage is the culminating focus of the event. But across the country, many SMACNA members are already meeting this challenge head-on by supporting initiatives that help diversify their sources of manpower. And so far, it’s working.
“We are seeing some SMACNA chapters that are really proactive in that area,” says Knox, who serves as president of the R.F. Knox, Company, Inc. in Smyrna, Georgia. “We are reaching out to folks coming back from the military, whether we are teaming up with Helmets To Hardhats or teaming up with the SMART Heroes program. The other thing that we are doing, to recruit more of the project manager and engineering type, is we are establishing SMACNA chapters at universities.”
The main message during this outreach being: “There is a path that can lead to a very successful career by just going through the trades,” says Knox.
Since 1976, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 Training Center has provided training and education for sheet metal apprentices in metro Detroit, Michigan. After noticing a dip in apprentices, Local 80 decided it was time to bring the training directly to the talent. Four years ago, the union established a pre-apprenticeship partnership with a local a career and technical education-focused high school in Fraser, Michigan.
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