Building PA Podcast 2020 Year In Review

The Building PA Podcast made it to the 2020 finish line. The Keystone Contractors Association enjoyed working with Atlas Marketing in this endeavor as we talk construction with Pennsylvania’s construction professionals. Afterall, it was the guests who were the true stars of this podcast and we thank each and every guest we’ve had on the show. In 2021 and beyond, we look forward to getting more of you to join the conversation!

For more information on the Building PA Podcast, please visit: https://buildingpapodcast.com/

Building PA Podcast Shareable 2020 Fun Facts

Building PA Podcast published 46 episodes in 2020. The first was Business of Construction – Crisis communications published April 03 and the last was How Drone Technology is Impacting the Construction Industry published December 14. Did we improve this year? (Tweet)

In 2020, the most popular episode of Building PA Podcast was Apprenticeship Training – Sheet Metal Workers, published April 05 and downloaded 208 times. What was your favorite episode? (Tweet)

In 2020, Building PA Podcast was downloaded 902 times from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; our most popular city! Where do you listen from? (Tweet)

In 2020, fans of Building PA Podcast listened most using Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, and Your Buzzsprout Site apps. What’s your favorite app for listening to podcasts? (Tweet)

In 2020, Building PA Podcast published 46 episodes totaling about 21 hours of content. That’s about 1,250 minutes or 75,018 seconds for your listening pleasure. What was your favorite episode?(Tweet)

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 11: The Benefits of Joining the Building Trades

Introduction: In the Fall of 2016, I became the executive director of the Keystone Contractors Association. In this position I was introduced to the world of the trustee. I became a trustee on medical plans, pension funds, apprenticeship committees, etc. It was a lot to soak in as it was completely new to me. It’s been my experience that no one wants anyone to drown in the construction industry and lifelines can be thrown when needed. As was the case in becoming a trustee on so many plans, I was overwhelmed by the support I received from the industry as many were ready to help me. One person who I got to know during this time was Irwin Aronson. As legal counsel on many funds, with lots of experience, he knows what he’s talking about in this area. Over the years, talking to him about medical, retirement and training funds, a light bulb went off that our industry offers such great reasons to join a building trades union – those reasons come in the form of awesome benefits like healthcare coverage, pension and education; but not everyone realizes what a selling point these benefits are. I contacted Irwin with this idea to have a podcast episode to talk about these benefits and he said: “that could be good but let me think about it and I’ll let you know who I think would be the best person for you to interview.” That’s when I told Irwin that he’s the best person to interview. Check out this episode and let me know if you agree with me: The Benefits of Joining the Building Trades.  

Chris Martin (00:00):

Hello and welcome to the next episode, if you will, of the Building Pennsylvania podcast, a podcast that is specific to the construction industry in Pennsylvania. My name is Chris Martin and I’m with Atlas Marketing, where we tell stories for people who build things. And with me is my partner. Hello, Jon O’Brien.

Jon O’Brien:

Hey, I’m checking in.  Jon from the Keystone Contractors Association and ready to rock and roll for another episode.

Chris Martin:

Yeah. Yeah. We have a real exciting, very energetic interviewer with us today. Irwin Aronson with the law firm of Willig Williams and Davidson. He’s a partner in residence in Irwin. Thank you for joining us. Welcome. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the firm?

Irwin Aronson (00:49):

Sure. Be happy to thanks for having us. First of all, I appreciate being here and particularly being with my old friend, Jon, who does things that are so admirable that I am touched by them every day are from, is just the way you paid me to say it, right?

Jon O’Brien:

Absolutely. You nailed it.

Irwin Aronson:

Our firm concentrates its practice in labor employment and employee benefit law. And I concentrate my practice within the firm precisely in that space. I typically for ethical reasons, I don’t discuss who my clients are, but a few of them are pretty well known. And my clients have identified me or pointed me out as their lawyers. So I can name those I’m general counsel of the Pennsylvania AFL CIO, and I’m general counsel to the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council of Unions. As well as a number of both of those organizations, local and regional affiliates throughout Pennsylvania, and the work that I do ranges from representing labor organizations in collective bargaining in grievance arbitration and in litigation and before both the National Labor Relations Board.

Irwin Aronson (02:08):

And in other instances, particularly in the public sector, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, but a very significant portion of my practice as well as in the representation of employee benefit funds, typically jointly trusteed labor management funds in the space of pension and retirement plans associated annuity plans, health and welfare plans that provide healthcare and other insurance benefits to workers and their families and jointly trusteed training and development programs, particularly in the building and construction trades where we train both apprentices and journey people in their various trades ranging from laborers to carpenters, to elevator constructors, to electricians, the plumbers, pipe fitters, welders, painters, paper hangers, other finishing trades, travel trades like tile setters and show on the entire gamut of building and construction trades training programs. And those typically just like the employee benefit plans are jointly sponsored labor management committees. And I’m blessed that I’m not only trusted by the union sides of those equations, but also typically by the employer and employer organization association sides of those as well. So that’s basically the areas in which I try to work and I’ve been doing it for a while. I’m at this for a little over 40 years now, so I’m beginning to learn it and that’s why I still call it practice, I guess.

Chris Martin (03:56):

Let me ask you this and then I’m going to back away and let Jon do it who I know has a lot of questions real quick. Why should young people enter our industry, why should they even care about a trust fund or their employment packages or let’s, how can we frame that for our young listeners that are out there thinking, well, why do I want to listen to Irwin today?

Irwin Aronson (04:23):

Well, why I want to listen to Irwin today is a very different question from the one that you initially teed up. I’ve listened to me for decades and I would pass on that anytime. But that’s another story why young people should be looking at what we’re talking about today has literally a plethora of reasons and rationales. First of all people get an opportunity to be trained in a trade or a vocation that is highly skilled and in high demand in every single instance throughout the gambit of the trades that I mentioned and more and they get to get that training to have access to that training, not only tuition free, and it is completely tuition free, but without any debt on the other side. And they walk away after four or five years of training, depending upon the trade with a ticket as a journey person.

Irwin Aronson (05:26):

And that journey person ticket allows them to go anywhere in the world, literally and practice their craft. They have complete portability of their skillset because that’s something that once attained can never be taken away on top of all of that really wonderful reality contrasted for example, with the college experience that I had, where I got the opportunity to sit in a classroom and pay tuition. And at the other end of that pay off student loans for about decade. Are there other practical realities? These jobs are family sustaining from day one, typically an entering in a pre-apprentice in one of the recognized traditional building construction trades and crafts is earning while she or he is learning and starts out as an 18 year old or 17 year old new apprentice at about 50% of the journey person’s rate. And over the course of four to five years maximum achieve the full journey person rate.

Irwin Aronson (06:33):

But in addition to that from day one, these folks are eligible for health care benefits that not only cover the worker, but cover his or her family, spouse, children, et cetera, and are accumulating credits for pensions, and annuities that really taken together, put people in a position by the time they’re a roughly age, 50/ 55 to be able to retire with a combination of benefits that is very close to what their full time earnings are. And there are very few alternatives in the academic path, which traditionally known as the academic path that are the equal of what I’ve just described. And they, of course all carry tuition bills and loan repayment plans with them. So this is really something that my parents’ generation understood my generation didn’t understand, and this new generation that’s coming up now is beginning to get it. And it’s all enhanced rather tremendously by another practical reality, the recession of 2008, 2009 had several impacts.

Irwin Aronson (07:49):

And one of them was that it winnowed out a number of people that were coming close to the end of their careers in the building trades. And now we have a real need, a high demand for qualified applicants and qualified apprentices for whom there will be a lifetime career once they come, once they apply, get admitted to and complete an apprenticeship and training program. So to my way of thinking, this is not merely a meaningful alternative to an academic and college career. It is in many foundational way superior because you earn while you learn and you have security that no corollary brings because there’s a skillset, it being a carpenter or a millwright being an electrician or a plumber or a pipe fitter, or a sprinkler fitter or a welder that is just not the same as having a bachelor of arts in philosophy and liberal studies.

Jon O’Brien (08:46):

Agreed, agreed. And we’ve been fortunate during our early stages of this Building PA Podcast to have many training directors join us and talk about the various trades and the various trainings that happen within their own trade, in their own craft, I think, and maybe I’m wrong here, but I think the young apprentices and those individuals thinking of entering a trade, I think they understand that the training aspect and they know they’re going to get like an excellent hands on education, but it’s the unknown. The other benefits that I don’t think they grasp, especially at a younger age, like 18 you know, early twenties as far as pension medical. And I don’t know what your opinion is, but I think we need to do a better job of promoting that.

Irwin Aronson (09:38):

Well, I think that on one hand, we all need to do a better job in communicating it. But not really communicating it in the context of it’s out there. This is available, but communicating it in the context that people are, they’re a few years older than that newly admitted high school graduate identify with quite differently every 18 year old that I’ve ever met, including the four that I raised or had a hand in raising my wife, raised them. I just showed up. I think the practical reality is they’re all immortal until they’re not. And

Jon O’Brien (10:19):

Wait, you mean, that goes away.

Irwin Aronson (10:21):

I understand that it goes away, but you know Jon the ages of your kids. So I know I kind of hesitate to give you a prediction when that happens.

Irwin Aronson (10:34):

In my instance, there is a this shock that took place. And I describe it with respect to my daughter who is an adult now and has a couple of kids of her own who never really thought about the value of health insurance until she developed a very significant series of adult onset allergies, which kept her from being able to eat any number of foods ranging from citrus products, to products with eggs, to products with dairy, to products with wheat, and that testing that she went through until we got to a point of understanding what that was cost, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. And this took place when she was a new, recent enter into the workforce. And she was fortunate that she had a job that had health insurance for which she was paying a significant out-of-pocket premium and had a big deductible.

Irwin Aronson (11:40):

And all of a sudden it grabbed her attention in a way that she had never contemplated before. And then only a couple of years later when she became pregnant with her first child. And again, was with the medical world and learning what the cost of a normal pregnancy is. She became quite grateful for that health insurance benefit that was there now in the building trades that we were just talking about a couple of minutes ago, everybody from the newest apprentice to the most senior journey person after an immediate or very short period of time is eligible for these benefits at no out of pocket costs, other than it, depending upon the trade and the particular plan, a handful of rather minimal deductibles or copays co-insurance kinds of things. And they tend to be very broad programs that cover not only medical, but prescription coverage, dental coverage, vision coverage, and often a number of other kinds of things, as well as life insurance.

Irwin Aronson (12:40):

And for somebody that’s a wage earner who has a misfortune and suffers or premature death families are really very dependent upon those life insurance proceeds as well. So this is really an amazing piece of this puzzle that young people tend not to consider either because their families have provided healthcare for them as they’ve grown up, or they have been covered by one of the areas, public sponsored programs like chip the children’s health insurance program sponsored by the state. The other piece of this puzzle is a retirement plan again, because we’re all immortal when we’re young. We don’t think about being able to support and sustain ourselves when going to work every day is no longer as easy and option either because of age or because of disability. And all of these trades sponsored programs, these jointly trusteed labor and management benefit programs have a feature of both age based retirement, typically 62 in a few cases, 65, 66, and in some cases as young as 55 with full retirement, but they also have a disability retirement feature that is not age based at all, but based upon when an unanticipated illness or an unanticipated event results in somebody not being able to work at their traditional trade or craft, and they become disabled and they become eligible under these programs for a pension, that’s the same as what it would have been had.

Irwin Aronson (14:21):

They reached normal retirement age. And again, this is an extraordinary benefit for individuals and also for families, particularly families with dependent children. So these features are there, and they’re baked into these trades and crafts along with the training that we’ve described. And along with the career, I mean I know any number of sheet metal workers, plumbers, fitters, electricians, who are easily earning eighty to a hundred thousand dollars a year, plus the benefits and the benefits that I’ve just described can be worth easily out of cost $25 to $35,000 a year. And then some, and that’s more than competitive with alternative careers. And as I say, there’s people get a skill set that no one can take away from it.

Jon O’Brien (15:15):

Yeah. That’s for sure. Yeah. Now with my role within the KCA and the industry, I’m more familiar with the general trades, you know, carpenters, laborers, carpenters, laborers, brickies. Yeah, absolutely. And it seems as though amongst those crafts and those trades, the average age of the apprentice entering the average age of entering apprentices is upper twenties.,

Irwin Aronson (15:41):

That’s my experience as well. More recently that the typical is someone who has been out of school. Often somebody who has gone to college and frequently someone who is not, but has had another career or another vocational based career and finds the laborers, for example, one that you and I get to work on together frequently finds the carpenters, finds the millwrights finds the travel trades and signs up. And those people who are in their late twenties into their early thirties are folks who typically already have a family and find that as an entering apprentice, they have an opportunity to have a family sustaining job right away more so than the jobs that they are leaving and they get a career. I have a story about this, and I don’t know, Jon, if I’ve ever told you this, how I ended up being, how I ended up being a lawyer.

Irwin Aronson (16:40):

Back when I was a youngster, 26 years of age, I had applied for an apprenticeship in the electrical workers union in Harrisburg and the business manager at the time who was somebody with whom I was acquainted because of other career activities in which I had engaged at that point called me in for an interview. And he sat me down and he said, Irwin, you’re among the best candidates for an apprenticeship that we’ve ever had during my time as a business agent. And I, at that point I had completed college. I had a bachelor’s degree from Penn State, and I still wanted to do this because I recognize that while I had a bachelor’s degree, I had absolutely no marketable skills. And at that time there was an interesting phenomenon that took place. This was long enough ago that we did not have age discrimination and employment statutes on the books.

Irwin Aronson (17:34):

So as this gentleman described how great I was and told me that he indeed assumed that if he admitted me into the program, it wouldn’t be too much longer before I’d be running for his job either to succeed him or to beat him. Which would not have been the case, but that’s a sidelight. He said, we can’t take you in, we can’t take you because you’re 26. And we have a rule in place that says, we won’t accept anybody. Who’s over 25 years of age because we want to get a career out of you. And so in those days, 25 was the cutoff for all of the highly skilled trades, but also for the for the basic trades, like carpenters and millwrights and floor layers, the soft floors, as well as wooden floor layers that has since changed because the law has changed and the organizations have changed.

Irwin Aronson (18:26):

And the relationship between the employer, contractors and the unions have changed. The result has been that people who are a bit older than I was at that time regularly apply for and regularly are admitted into apprenticeship and training programs that all of the trades, and they get a career and it may not be a 40 year career like I was looking at at that time. But I ended up going to law school because George Segall at the time out of the IBW denied me admission into the IBEW. Otherwise right now I’d be an electrician and try to figure out how to collect my pension because I’d be old enough, unlike a lawyer who never quit.

Jon O’Brien (19:03):

Okay. Interesting. I never knew that about the age. So what year are we talking about, like what timeframe

Irwin Aronson (19:09):

That would have been roughly 1980, 81, somewhere in that range. Okay. So I went to law school from 1980 to 1982, but from the fall of 80 through the spring of 82 and that was after I’d been out of college for 10 years. I spent that 10 years working at the Pennsylvania AFL CIO in various capacities. During that time, after my own union, the Service Employees in Pittsburgh had loaned me to the AFL CIO.

Jon O’Brien (19:41):

Yeah. Also amongst all the various trust funds and different funds that you sit on. Do you feel, or do you think some of them do it better as far as communicating the benefits to the general public?

Irwin Aronson (19:57):

I think that some learn from, yeah, I think that some do, and if there’s no pattern to it, we might have a bricklayers fund in Pittsburgh be very communicative or attractive. I know that there’s a pipe trades fund in Pittsburgh that is really on the cutting edge of training. They just built a new exceptional training facility. That’s been open for about a year. And they are advertising on TV attracting very high quality apprentices. But I also know in central and North central Pennsylvania, the laborers and the contractors association, like the KCA are attracting a significant number of apprentices to become construction, craft laborers, and go through that training. And that’s a relatively young apprenticeable trade. It’s only been about 24, 25 years that we had such a thing as an apprenticeship and training program for construction craft laborers.

Irwin Aronson (21:02):

I was party to the application and approval by the state of the Pennsylvania State Apprenticeship and Training Council for the very first laborers’ training program. And that is one that is sponsored jointly by KCA and the Laborers’ District Council of Eastern Pennsylvania. And they’re attracting people. Part of it is industry-based. So down in south central Pennsylvania in Chambersburg, right now, there is a very significant solar power plant being built. And there is a need for electrical workers, both journeymen and apprentices. And there has been some significant outreach there at a recognition that when somebody gets a chance to work on this job, it’s on the cutting edge of renewable power sources. And the training they get in working on that job will be training that will serve people, particularly younger people for an entire career in something that government agencies and environmental organizations, as well as typical large construction project owners, like Penn State University like major hospitals and like government agencies will be seeking out.

Irwin Aronson (22:24):

And those skills will serve those young people for a career. And they will get the opportunity to learn those skill sets while being paid a very good wage and earning those benefits we talked about and helping to sustain the training program for a coming generation that’s yet to be identified all good stuff. So there’s just a lot going on out there. And I see it every day we have in Pennsylvania that the reality of a growing gas industry and the pipelines that go along with that. And while some people have expressed some understandable concerns about the pipeline construction for another generation of us, these are family sustaining jobs. Once again, with family sustaining wages, but much more significantly their jobs on which people learn skillsets that serve them for a career, not just for a job

Jon O’Brien (23:24):

So what’d you say, Chris, are you sold or is there a certain trade you’re looking to add?

Irwin Aronson (23:28):

I mean, the age, the age was lifted so

Chris Martin (23:30):

Well, unfortunately I’m 48, so I’m probably not going to be a good a good fit based on that, but

Irwin Aronson (23:38):

You’re in and I will sponsor you myself.

Chris Martin (23:41):

Well, thank you, Irwin, when I’m in, you know, I have a funny story as well. And that point I started my, my company 11 years ago. And at the time we had been working with a lot with the iron workers and we still do. And my wife, you know, start the company in 2008, which was great time to start the company. My wife says to me, well, what’s your plan B? And I said, well, worst case scenario I’ll become an iron worker. I don’t think she stopped laughing since she keeps reminds me of that. Every day I hear this…

Irwin Aronson (24:17):

Excuse me, I’m sorry for dropping. I have this wonderful sort of idiosyncratic story. A very dear friend of mine was the, for many years, the state director of the railroad unions here in Pennsylvania. And he was more than a client. And his son was born literally two days before my daughter was born and his son went to school in Harrisburg and graduated high school with honors, went to Duquesne University, got himself a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He went back to Duquesne and got a master’s degree in education and had planned on being a teacher. And he ended up getting a job as an instructor in the academic side of a welding program that the pipe trade unions out in the Pittsburgh area had sponsored along with a company called Maglev incorporated. And in the process, this young man became exposed to a number of folks who were in the boiler makers union and had been trained on precision welding techniques.

Irwin Aronson (25:36):

And he became so enamored of them that he applied for and was admitted to the boilermakers apprenticeship and training program out in the Pittsburgh area. This is a young man with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He went through that apprenticeship training program became the number one boiler maker, welding apprentice in the country in his fourth year of a five year program. And has since had a career where he has literally traveled all over the world on welding jobs. He’s been of course, up in Alaska on that pipeline work, both working in training people. He’s been all over the middle East on pipeline work. He’s been throughout Asia. He’s been throughout most of Europe and he’s been in South America and even in Australia. And he is earning whatever he really feels like earning as much as he feels like earning. He has already been vested in a pension program at the ripe young age of 39. And he has an extraordinary healthcare program and can basically name his own tickets. He is among the highest workers that I’ve ever met, and he earns well into the six figures any year that he chooses to good for him.

Jon O’Brien:

We should have him on the show.

Chris Martin (26:57):

We’ve done a lot of work with the boilermakers and I can attest to that from their international work and their travelers fund and the way that they support that the opportunities that aren’t just here in the United States, but all over the world. I know there’s a lot of big local growing in Puerto Rico, actually with all the issues that have been facing there on, in Puerto Rico. So you’re absolutely right. And it’s not just the boilermakers. It’s, it’s every trade.

Irwin Aronson (27:28):

It’s every one of the trades. I mean, one of the fascinating and unique things I’ve alluded to this earlier in this conversation that people secure a skill set through our training programs that no one can take away from them. And part of the reality is in in two instances, one is when you’re living in the Northeastern United States or in the in the Northern part of the central United States, and the weather gets cold, you have those skills. And if you want to work in Florida or work in Arizona, you have to pick up the phone or you send out an email to the sister, local union in your trade in those areas and see if they need people. And more often than not, you get a referral and you can work as a traveler in those areas and avoid the cold weather if that’s your interest, or if you want to see some spot on the planet that is just intriguing as all get out to you.

Irwin Aronson (28:24):

And, and that’s the way that is. You make the appropriate contact, you make the appropriate phone call. And these folks refer to one another as brother for a reason, and they treat one another like brothers and they make space and they make time for this to happen. And typically all of these healthcare and pension and annuity and training funds have what they refer to in the industry as reciprocity agreements. So you earn the access to your benefits in one location, but it is the funds are sent to your home area so that you don’t have any lapse in benefit eligibility or investing for a pension. And the benefits themselves are completely portable in this respect. So that’s another aspect when one works for an individual company with an individual employer sponsoring your healthcare plan. If you lose your job, you lose your benefits in these trades.

Irwin Aronson (29:23):

If you get laid off because of a short term, lack of work, your benefits continue. Typically when you’re working actively, you are in benefit credits, show that during a period of unemployment, whether it’s unemployment because of some structural issue or unemployment, because you just feel like working for a period of time, you want to knock off for a week or two for hunting season, for example, your benefits, don’t lapse, your benefits don’t get canceled. They travel with you and they’re completely portable both for traveling and work in both and in terms of periods of layoff or downturn. So it’s another feature that people just don’t realize.

Jon O’Brien (30:02):

Yeah. Another great benefit. So I know KCA will continue to beat the drum and really promote these hidden benefits and make sure it’s well communicated to the masses.

Irwin Aronson (30:14):

Well, you know, one of the realities is that the unions that KCA members have relationships with and KCA members have a truly symbiotic relationship that they’ll get into a wrestling match here and there over what these rates should be. But the rates ultimately are collectively bargained and nobody is getting forced to pay more than the than the economy locally can bear. And the unions and the employers work together jointly to assure that admission to crafts is based upon what they anticipate will be the actual industry needs. So there aren’t too many extra apprentices and too many extra journeymen that are competing for work. The work is there based on the estimates and they work in tandem. Just earlier today, I was working on a piece of legislation known as house bill 1100, that would provide some specialized tax benefits for building another petrochemical plant up in the North Eastern part of Pennsylvania. And I was working with a group of contractors as well as a group of union folks, standing shoulder to shoulder and working arm and arm to get the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to attend and pass the legislation that will enable this to happen. And it’s a ton of jobs in Pennsylvania, but it’s also a ton of tax income. And it’s also a ton of real and meaningful profits for contractors who successfully bid and get that work.

Jon O’Brien (31:53):

Well, thank you for your efforts there. I’m hearing leadership is slowly coming around.

Irwin Aronson (31:59):

Nope. Nobody ever explained it so well before.

Jon O’Brien (32:02):

Yes. On behalf of the industry. Thank you. Yes.

Irwin Aronson (32:06):

Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It really is a pleasure to work jointly that’s yeah, so many times in my world, it’s an antagonistic relationship, but in this piece of my world, it really never is antagonistic. It’s really a joint effort. And that’s why I emphasize these jointly trusteed training programs and jointly trusteed healthcare programs and jointly trusteed apprenticeship and training programs, because that’s the deal.

Jon O’Brien (32:34):

Absolutely. It’s teamwork. It’s all about teamwork and yeah on behalf of management in KCA, I’d like to just thank you for all your hard work over the years, and we’d like to keep picking your brain and bring you back on the show from time to time.

Irwin Aronson:

Well, I’m happy to come back. I have an intimate understanding of what’s in that brain and there isn’t much, but it’s all yours.

Chris Martin (32:56):

Okay. Irwin we thank you so much for your time today and thank you for everyone listening. Be prepard because we have a lot more coming from the Building PA Podcast, more episodes about interesting and useful information such as this. So thank you, Irwin and thank you Jon. Have a great day, everybody.

Jon O’Brien (33:23):

Alright. We’ll see ya.

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 9: Cement Masons Apprenticeship Training Program

“On a scale of 1 to 10, we always shoot for a 10.”

This was such a cool interview. Listening to Ron Stefaniak, I could just picture a concrete pour on an early morning jobsite as he spoke. Some people work but don’t like what they do and some people do like the work they’re in, but when you meet someone who has a strong passion for their profession it’s awesome to hear. I even felt the passion for concrete come through while reading this transcript. I can envision a perfectly poured floor when Ron says: “on a scale of 1 to 10, we always shoot for a 10.” Enjoy the transcript, but as great as it is to read Ron’s words nothing beats the passion in his voice. Listen hear: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/apprenticeship-training-cement-masons-61532370/

Chris Martin (00:00):

Welcome to the Building PA Podcast. I am sitting here with Jon O’Brien, my partner. My name is Chris Martin. I’m with Atlas Marketing. Good morning. How’s it going? Good, good morning. And I am with Ron Stefaniak. Well, I should say we are with Ron Stefanik, who’s the apprenticeship coordinator with the Plasterers and Cement Masons, correct? I apologize.

Ron Stefaniak:

Yep.

Chris Martin:

So Ron, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got here. Okay.

Ron Stefaniak (00:31):

I was taught by the greatest generation. That was my uncles who came back from the second World War and they were such an influence on me because they were my heroes. So naturally I listened to the stories every night at that dinner table. Even though mom wanted me to go to college, I did go to college and I got my degree, but that inside of me still I said I wanted to do construction. So lo and behold, after all these years, 40 years as a Cement Mason, but totally 51 years, because I started out as a Laborer out of Kittanning, PA in 1952. So that’s where I’m at this point in my life.

Chris Martin (01:13):

That is so… I love how you talk about the greatest generation and how you got here in terms of the influence from your uncles. That’s great because we know that is very typical in the construction industry. So what made you choose to become a Cement Mason?

Ron Stefaniak (01:33):

Okay so the thing about it is, at the time that I graduated or whatever, that’s when the Pittsburgh steel industry was in a downturn and we didn’t have the Renaissance yet, like we had today. So it was very easy for me, I started off with an office job with Babcock and Wilcox, and I knew that making out checks and doing time sheets wasn’t my cup of tea. I had to be out there with the excitement sounds of construction and the beep beep beeps and all that kind of stuff. So I followed my heart and I fell in. My mum passed away and my dad was still in the industry. And I said, no greater thing to be able to work with your father. So that’s why I evolved into that. The cement makes it, my dad would have been electrician or whatever. I would have followed them that way because he was my hero. And that’s why I chose to stay with the you know, the concrete end of it. So it’s because of my father.

Chris Martin (02:35):

And I liked that too, because all the unions that we work with and say with Jon and the KCA and everything, everybody has that family story.

Ron Stefaniak (03:00):

And that’s the nice thing about the union side of construction is that brother, that hey tomorrow, I’m going to put my arm around you. We’re going to show you how to do this. So you’re not going to fail. And I can, you know, as the apprenticeship coordinator, that’s part of what you’re doing, you know, on a daily basis. Exactly.

Jon O’Brien:

How long did it take you to become the apprenticeship coordinator?

Ron Stefaniak:

Well it was actually okay. About 30 years I was in the field. Okay. And so I’ve been an apprentice coordinator for going on nine, actually going on 10 years. So if you take the 10 from the 40 years of concrete and simple math, that’s about what I was out and field for about 30 years. Doing floors, doing chimneys, doing well, you name it exposed me to a lot of different things over the years, so who better to teach the next generation, right? Yeah. Yeah. And as long as the passion is still there, as long as the passion, and then there’s such an opportunity for these young people today, that it’s unbelievable. And I want to make sure that, you know, I always say on my tombstone, I want it to be ‘Ron, did everything he could to perpetuate unionism on planet earth’ and I’ll be happy that these young kids followed my path. Right. That’s great. Great.

Jon O’Brien (04:20):

Very good. Speaking of young kids, let’s reach out to them and let’s focus on them for a little bit. So like what can they expect if they wanted to be a Cement Mason? Like what’s a Cement Mason do nowadays, what’s the training, like just kinda touch on that a little bit.

Ron Stefaniak (04:37):

Okay. So we look at, you have to, you have to be like an active type person and we don’t make you take a test, but when I interview, I want to see that sort of I need that look in your eyes that says, ‘yeah, I’m an outdoors person.’ I played a team sport because concrete is a team activity. It’s just like playing football or whatever. I’m looking for somebody that is not afraid of a challenge every day. You’re going to get challenged with the wind, the rain, the snow and the batching plant and all these things you have to, you can’t be that kind of place, a complacent person that says, ‘Oh, you know what I don’t want that kind of challenge.’ So I look at all these different things. Some of them are students, aren’t A students.

Ron Stefaniak (05:31):

They’re C, B students, but that doesn’t hold them back from not being dynamite workers, because a lot of them really didn’t like school, you know? And now I don’t hold that because some of my best workers are C and D students. So, I want to make sure I give them that opportunity. Maybe I don’t see something right away, but I get them out in the field and all of that light bulb comes on and it’s like, and that’s already happened to me. So we give them every opportunity to spread their wings and flying at the business, especially now when we all need workers that are willing to work and get a sustainable income, families is standing income for you know, and so that’s what we look for.

Jon O’Brien (06:21):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So is there anything a high school student could do now while they’re in school to prepare to become a Cement Mason?

Ron Stefaniak (06:30):

Well, yeah. When we interview I normally have somebody from one of the either the heavy highway or the builders trade that comes over and what we look at, we look at attendance, we look at that’s a big thing because that demonstrates the ability to want to learn. And if I get an apprentice out there and if he’s bucking me all the time and he doesn’t want to listen, well, then he’s not gonna learn. So I tell them naturally it’s good to you know, have good math skills and science skills, but that’s not a big thing in our business because, you know, we’re going to electrician to brain workers. We’re making calculations all the time. We’re more or less the type of guys that are like you know, I got girls in our custom cross-country skiers, and I got guys that are traders in a gym that was very active people that can sit still. That’s what I want to see. As a young person, no complacency because there’s no room for complacency when that paving machine starts going, you gotta have to be able to run with it and know that you’re that kind of person, that this is my challenge for today, and this is what I want to do, and I’m not going to get beat up, you know? So that’s what we’re really,

Jon O’Brien (08:04):

What have you seen over your 10 years as the training director, as far as the type people that are entering the program, people looking to get into the program, have you seen a shift at all as the economy has changed over the last 10 years?

Ron Stefaniak (08:19):

Absolutely. First of all, we preach, like my mum used to say, ‘till we’re blue in the face’, cleats you kid. So we preached to the guidance counselors in the high schools, and we say, listen you know, everybody wants their child to go to college, but yet there’s students out there that aren’t college material that want to work with their hands. And so please encourage them if they don’t want to go to college. I don’t want them sitting at home watching reruns of going in dial-in in her mom’s basement. And I want them to know that the building trades, 16 of us, there are workers: boilermakers, cement masons, on and on, and whatever that they’re going to be able to come in there and we’re going to embrace them and tell them, yes, we need warm bodies. We need people.

Ron Stefaniak (09:15):

And you’re the type of person that wants to work, we’re going to show you how to make family-sustaining wages. And it’s a very warm situation that you know, all the ethnic groups of females or whatever, everybody has an opportunity. Unlike it’s ever been in my 40 years, it’s never been like this. It’s like, you know, when we’re begging them, people that say, come on, you know, and join the trades. And so that’s it’s so exciting. And right now it’s off the chart. As far as like these Cracker Plants, heavy highway, there is a need to do so many bridges in so many ways, like two years ago Pennsylvania, if he did we’d repair 600 bridges in so much time. So all of a sudden the money’s there and we’re going to deal with

Jon O’Brien (10:07):

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a very, very exciting time for the industry, for sure. So yeah, you find, you know, a high school grad, he’s motivated, he’s excited. He wants to work out in the field. What’s he to expect the first year when it comes to training. And I heard a little rumor, you guys earn while you learn, so you might want to throw that in there too. But yeah, what’s the first year to expect?

Ron Stefaniak (10:33):

Okay. The first year kids, what we do is we take, put them through a pre-apprenticeship for two weeks. Pre-Apprenticeship we make sure they have OSHA 10, so they’re safe. We make sure they have CPR, AED and first day we take them out that week. We show them how to pound pins, set forms. They’re not going to be homerun hitters in two weeks, but they’re not going to be like a deer in the headlights either. They’re good, but we get their toe in the water. So then after two weeks, we put them on the out of work list. And then our contractors, our signatory contractors, we encourage them. Here’s young people. We need to get them to work. And so as June and July and August comes and we place these apprentices with the signatory contractors, whether it be heavy highway or building trade, and then that’s their opportunity to learn in real time, not just in a classroom setting, but in real time, all the sights and sounds, and smells and everything that’s involved in being on the job. That’s the beauty of apprenticeship.

Chris Martin (11:54):

And in that pre-apprenticeship period, a two week period, are they mostly in the classroom versus on the job? Which again, on Jon’s question, what can they expect there?

Ron Stefaniak (12:00):

What we do is we’ll about the first week we make them safe. Okay. We get them in a classroom. Then the second week we’ll go to like there might be a contractor out there that needs a section of driveway poured at his facility. We have a place down in Millville, Pittsburgh, mobile that has batches, he has a batching trucks and he’ll batch us 20 yards of concrete or whatever. And we’ll pour a section there. He always has something to pour. So that second week we actually take them on a jobsite forms and create real time, you know? And so the date that they have a real idea of just not, we first start them out in wet sand, just like you do. And at the beach, we start them off at wet sand and show them exactly how to straight edge, how to edge and everything. And then the next step is you. And then like that’s what we do the second week. We’ll find him something to pour. And sometimes we’ll even do community stuff like dugouts and little league field, or a set of steps or something like that, something that for a nonprofit, for profit organization. Perfect. Perfect. Yeah.

Chris Martin (13:22):

Yeah. With that said, what are some of the requirements that if I’m a high school senior hearing you talk or saying, ‘Hey, wait a second. I really want to do an adult job like this.’ What do I need to do to get involved?

Ron Stefaniak (13:37):

Okay, first of all, we cover 33 counties. So we’re not going to send you to one place to where you can get on a bus and go to work for the next 30 years. So we tell you, you have to have a driver’s license, you know, and then you have to have access to an automobile. Sometimes these young people, they don’t have any money yet. So grandma has a car, a grandfather has a car, as long as we have some sort of ownership that says, yeah, you know, an owner’s card, it says they have the ability to go to work social security card. Absolutely. They have to have it. We can take your applications before they’re 18 and get all the preliminaries done, but we can’t send them to work till they’re 18. So that’s a, you know, we can train them, we can get them ready, but then by June, the first after we get done with pre-apprenticeship in April, then they have to be ready. And you have to have a high school diploma or GED. And so we tell them, work on this. So it’s all out of the way. So there’s no roadblocks or obstacles to us getting you into the workforce.

Jon O’Brien (14:54):

And like you said, it’s a great time to get in.

Ron Stefaniak (15:00):

So I don’t know why you wouldn’t, let me leave you with this thought. So I asked myself, why did I decide to do this? I remember when I was in Catholic school, the nuns wanted me, they said, I liked art and they wanted to be an artist. Well, now I tell these young people that when I’m going to career fairs and stuff like that, I say our portrait is on the ground. Okay. My portrait is that concrete comes out of the truck and it looks like mother’s art or whatever at the end of the day, there’s your portrait. And so that’s the excitement, I look at myself as an artist. If I’m going to do your driveway or if I’m going to do you want to see some words street, go to Las Vegas and you’ll see, pervious concrete, you’ll see colored concrete, you’ll see polished concrete.

Ron Stefaniak (15:56):

And that’s just one example of the beauty of what we could do with something to I’ve got at a truck in the morning. So that’s what always floated my boat as far as taking something and developing a portrait. And so it’s that wow, that I do that at the end of the day, you know? And if you have the right team and mother nature support you as far as the beautiful day, no rain, no wind, all that kind of stuff. Then everything falls in line and it’s like, then you’re, you know, you’re happy, you know, you’re yeah. On a scale of one to 10, we always shoot for a 10. And so all those different things have to line up mother nature in a batching plant the correct amount of team work, you know, and so on and so forth.

Ron Stefaniak (16:46):

And then it’s like, yeah, I did my homework and everything’s great. So that’s it, every day is a challenge every day. And you have to have that kind of person that’s willing to accept that challenge. Just like it’s like the Steelers are playing somebody, you gotta be ready to go. That’s the way our industry is.

Chris Martin:

And yeah, I really love what you just said though, about how you were at you coming out of high school, you were in art, you liked art. You were really there, and you can apply that to the Cement Masons and your line of work. So any high school senior high school, junior out there, boy or girl, she can relate to that. And I think that’s important to help some of the younger kids now understand that you’re not going to go out on the job site and just be this nonstop hammer nails, and doing all these things. There’s an art form to it. There is a beauty to it. So thank you for sharing that. I think that’s great. That’s really good.

Jon O’Brien (17:44):

The market’s good. And the Cement Masons are looking for a future artists. So look them up

Ron Stefaniak (17:50):

I like that.

Chris Martin (17:51):

And if you’re interested in becoming a cement artist reach out to our friend here, Ron Stefanik. How can kids get a hold of you?

Ron Stefaniak (18:01):

Okay. First of all we have a website it’s www.opcmia526.org. Okay. And you can also look on the Builder’s Guild or apprentice order, but the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, it’s very elaborate. And they highlight all the trades. So, if I get a young person that maybe not sure of wanting to be at Cement Mason, I just say, listen, we want you in our union family. So, we want you to follow your heart. So make yourself happy and pick one of the trades. If I’m not one of them, I still feel you’re in good hands because there’s no bad picks in the building trades of western Pennsylvania, none. You know what? You’re in. good hands.

Chris Martin (18:51):

That’s true. True.  Great advice for our young folks who are considering a construction trade. So thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you for joining us today on the Building PA Podcast and Ron, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot, Ron, and tune into our next podcast. Again, that’s the Building PA Podcast and have a great day. Thank you.

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 8: Meet Bill Sproule, EST of the Carpenters Union

For this episode we have a nice chat with the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters EST Bill Sproule. I’ve been fortunate to have known and learned from many great leaders, from sports coaches growing up to Navy enlisted and officers to many in the construction world. I feel like I know a great leader when I see one and from what I’ve seen I think the Carpenters in Pennsylvania have some sort of leadership factory. Each of the ESTs I’ve dealt with have been exemplary – Brooks, Waterkotte and now Sproule. The representatives and training staffs work tirelessly to do what’s best for the industry. And the carpenters in the field are the best at what they do. So I hope you enjoy this episode as you get to know the new EST, his experiences, leadership style and he even touches on worker misclassification too. Mr. Sproule is the real deal, man of his word and I think you’ll agree that comes across in this chat. To listen to the episode click here: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/labor-meet-the-est-of-61532378/.

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Building Pennsylvania Podcast, a construction industry podcast, recorded right here in the great state of Pennsylvania for our Commonwealth’s best industry. I’m Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association…

Chris Martin:

And this is Chris Martin with Atlas Marketing. Joining us today, we’re pretty proud of this and pretty excited about this. We have Bill Sproule, the EST – Executive Secretary Treasurer for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. Hello Bill.

Bill Sproule (00:34):

Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you very much for having me on the podcast.

Jon O’Brien (00:39):

Thank you. So you’ve been EST now year and a half, maybe two years now.

Bill Sproule (00:43):

Actually I was appointed EST in April of 2019 when a promotion took place. My former EST Bill Waterkotte was promoted to Eastern District Vice President for our International. So in April I was appointed to the job and then we had an upcoming election that took place in August, where I was elected to a four year term to represent what was then Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters. We just renamed the council due to the very unique and diverse territories that we have in the Eastern and Atlantic States. So I was elected to that position in August of 19. So I’m in the first year of my term.

Jon O’Brien (01:33):

There is a diverse territory that the Carpenters Council now covers. And the big question is: who is Bill Sproule? You want to introduce yourself to our contractors?

Bill Sproule (01:47):

Sure, absolutely. I’m a 31 year member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. I got into the apprenticeship a little bit later. I was 22 years of age. When I finally got into the carpenter’s union back in 1989, it was pretty difficult to get in back then. I was trying in Philadelphia and I was trying down the shore and the Atlantic City area. And I grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, but I spent my summers at the sure, but I’ve actually been in construction probably going back to the summer of 1981. I’ve been a roofer’s helper in the summers down the shore with some relatives that were involved in that business and actually got into Roofer’s Local 30 B, the residential arm of that on my 18th birthday in 1984. So I’ve basically been banging nails, carrying shingles, or doing carpentry, whether it’s interior systems or concrete you know, for quite some time now, although I was able to have the unique opportunity in 1999, I was working on the Brigantine tunnel connector project down in Atlantic city.

Bill Sproule (03:06):

I was a shop steward there with 90 Carpenters and one of our business representatives was considering retirement. And it blew me away when you know the business manager. And he came out to my site, which was the tunnel. It was a nice three year project, which you didn’t really see those kinds of jobs that often. And they asked me if I’d be interested in being a, you know, an organizer and a business representative. And I was actually able to make the cut and be the person that was hired for that position. And worked my way up. And it’s just been a learning experience ever since we’ve been an evolution of many regional councils. I started out as a rep in a council called the Southern New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters. At that particular time, there were four councils in New Jersey.

Bill Sproule (04:06):

There were multiple councils in the state of Pennsylvania, and there were hundreds of locals in the region as well. It was almost like every County or, or even more than that had a local. So in 2002, there was some mergers that took place. And some consolidations and New Jersey was turned into a regional council as a whole, instead of four councils. And they still remained having like 26 local unions throughout the state at that time. But I had already been on staff and was learning the ropes. And then and I was promoted to senior representative and then organizing director and regional manager. At one point, I became the president of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, which was a merger that took place in 2011. And you know things have just been evolving. The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters was actually kind of disbanded and merged into KML and that occurred in 2018.

Bill Sproule (05:15):

And we were KML and I served as Bill Waterkotte’s assistant executive secretary treasurer, helping him run pretty much the whole Eastern side of the operation, which would be New Jersey Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley right on down through Washington DC in Virginia. And then we went ahead and Bill moved up and we just petitioned the International for our name change. It’s funny, you know, Keystone Mountain Lakes was a great name when the former Greater PA Council merged with West Virginia. But when you add a New Jersey, Delaware, DC, Maryland, Virginia, to that mix, you know, we used to joke around what are we going to call this Keystone Mountain Lakes Bays and Estuaries. So we started thinking of what could the name be and unanimously in early December, each board meeting we kind of came to a conclusion that everybody was on board with Eastern Atlantic States. I wrote to the International to request to see if we can get a name change. And they actually granted that within a week or so. So we’re in a unique spot right now where we’re rebranding. We are building our website out and our apps and things like that. And getting all of our identity changed around to the new council and get looking at a new logo and things of that nature. So it’s a pretty exciting time.

Jon O’Brien (06:53):

Very exciting, indeed. Yeah. For the early on I kept calling them the Keystone Carpenters and then the KML name finally clicked with me and I started using KML and then it switches again and then I’m sure I’ll adapt.

Bill Sproule (07:10):

The only one that was frustrated with us changing the name again, I hear it every time I would encounter folks that I hadn’t seen in a while. And I think one of the things that pushed me over the edge to really fast track this was we had a group of representatives attend an event called the League of Municipalities in New Jersey down in Atlantic City. And it’s basically three days where every elected official from a municipal level, county level, state level converges on AC and there’s workshops and it’s a conference. Well, we actually did a booth this year and we had some of our folks down there and people were coming up and they would recognize the carpenter’s label or the insignia that we have had since 1881. But when they saw the KML, they’d be like what’s KML?

Bill Sproule (08:06):

And it just got to a point where we really needed to change our identity. And I think in another six months or another year or so people really recognize who we are: Eastern Atlantic States, and we are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and now Puerto Rico. And we actually have 10 counties in Northern North Carolina. What’s unique about this council, we have a 42,000 plus members at this time and a good majority of those members actually hail from Pennsylvania or New Jersey in those numbers. I got some numbers here for our Pennsylvania members, since we’re talking about the industry and the market and the diversity in the Keystone state, and we have 14,349 active members in the state, and we have 4,817 retired members in the State. So when you look at that you know, a really good percentage of our council is certainly domiciled here in Pennsylvania.

Jon O’Brien (09:17):

So different name, but same great partnership with the contractors. And you know, we just enjoy this relationship we have with the carpenters and let’s keep it going, but when it comes to your leadership style what sort of role and what can you pull on from your past experiences during your 31 years in the field and as a rep, is there certain people that kind of mentored you along and kind of guided you? Is there any certain experiences that really stick out to you?

Bill Sproule (09:50):

Absolutely. You know when I first started, well go back to the tools you know, being a roofer and then coming into the carpenters, I kind of thought I’d be able to just jump right in there and no sweat. I mean, I was strong, young, not afraid of heights you know, could handle a hammer and other tools and things of that nature. And I got dumped on a drywall job and I had never really done drywall. So I don’t know if you can imagine it. And I was tucked in the back of the Taj Mahal, you know, in the back Carter’s where they were doing triple layer dry wall. And the screws were like two and a half inches long. So starting out in that environment, on your first day, it was a little intimidating, but being that I worked with tools and I had a good construction background, I started picking it up pretty fast and became a really good interior systems carpenter, thanks to the journeymen that I had to work with.

Bill Sproule (10:55):

And although back then they used to torture the apprentices a bit, but they were very helpful in teaching us the craft. That’s something that we’re definitely getting away from is the old school where the hazing that used to take place, if you will it’s something that we’re definitely turning a corner on, and trying to avoid that, especially with the millennials you know, I’m a Gen Xer, and that’s how it was. And it was a great experience. I got to learn interior systems. I got to learn some finish work and then I got to get really good at and learn concrete work and high rises. I worked on several of the casino additions, as well as the tunnel and some bridges. So it was a very well rounded experience where I got to learn how to multitask and diversify my skills.

Bill Sproule (11:51):

I got to see the ups and downs, the cyclical nature of the business, you know, through booms and busts in the economy and got to learn how important it was to have a good reputation and be extremely productive if you want to make a good living. And you know, if you’ve got contractors that always want to try to get you on board, then you’re gonna make it through thick and thin. So that was a great experience. And then becoming a representative was kind of like starting all over again, because you got to imagine, I guess a 32 year old, I was working on concrete at the time, bolt bag and Spud, branch and formal, and, you know, just getting it. We had 50 foot by 30 foot gang forms on the tunnel that weighed 30 tons.

Bill Sproule (12:42):

And I was on that gang. I was a signal man and in the shop steward. And then next thing, you know, I’m walking into an office trying to figure out what to do with a fax machine. So it’s kinda funny to me, don’t even use those things anymore. But so I struggled a little bit for a short time in the office, just getting the hang of you know, wearing a tie and it wasn’t all office work. Obviously I was out in the field organizing and going on job sites and turning jobs around and gaining market share for our local and our members. But I think the best thing is I always had the mindset that you got to learn something new every day, no matter how experienced you are, there’s always somebody out there that’s going to probably teach us something.

Bill Sproule (13:31):

And then you know, as I get older now and move up in ranks in the position, you start to notice that you gotta actually be able to convey that same energy back to the people that are working for you so that they can learn. And you got to give them the opportunities to have failures and success at the same time. It’s the only way people are going to learn. So that’s kinda like my management style. I surround myself with a great team, my leadership team, everybody else, I expect them to work hard. This is not just a job. It’s more of a lifestyle. I can honestly say I probably log about 3000 hours plus a year. And I don’t expect everybody to do that. That’s what I have to do with my travels and everything else that’s going on, but I expect my people to work hard for the membership and we have a great team and I’m not afraid to surround myself with people that may even be smarter than I am, especially with the technology stuff we need folks that are great organizing things and great with the computer technology.

Bill Sproule (14:48):

I’ve been learning that as I go. And you know, I’m doing okay with it. I do read my emails, which is something in this day and age I never imagined that emails would be like the worst thing that you have to deal with in work. But just to give you an example, I come back from a vacation and I have over a thousand of the things. So, and I do read them some of the guys that have my job just basically say, you know, they leave it up to other folks to track them down about the important emails and all that stuff. But for whatever reason, I’m a glutton for punishment. I stay on top of things and try to multitask and try to lead this organization the best I can, but I honestly gotta say it used to be, I used to say a hundred phone calls, suck the life out here. And that’s when I was a new business agent, dispatching members to work and fielding phone calls and taking care of problems. But now it’s you know, I’d love to have maybe half those phone calls and maybe half less the emails that I deal with. And I think the world would be a better place

Chris Martin (16:05):

Bill, You’re not alone in that because I can say definitively, I feel your pain. That email volume is about the same for me. So I hear ya. Thank you for that introduction to yourself and letting our listeners understand a little bit more about Bill as Jon put it. But I, from my experience in the past, working with with the KML you know, we did website, we did newsletters, we did some other things, presentations and helping on the political side. I know personally that the carpenters have some issues that you want to rectify. Can you talk a little bit about some of those issues and how that’s affecting the vision and the direction that you’re taking in the future.

Bill Sproule (16:55):

Absolutely. Chris I think that the number one issue facing not only the carpenters, but many other trades in the construction industry is a misclassification, the underground economy tax fraud in the construction industry. And it mostly pertains to private sector. In some States you, you see it even in the public sector, work in the prevailing wage where there’s a lax enforcement of the regs and laws. But when you look at the amount of construction workers that are working off the books, just think about every one of those construction workers working off the books, there’s multiple victims and, you know, average people from other occupations do not realize that they’re victims of this as well. And basically what happens is when you have a workforce that’s not helping contribute into local state, County taxes, federal taxes, and things of that nature it creates less opportunities for young people that want to move into the construction trade.

Bill Sproule (18:11):

Not to mention legitimate contractors that have small, medium and large size businesses that have, you know, made their bones in this industry are under siege by this problem, because there’s no way to compete when a developer or an end user or somebody decides that they would rather not use union labor to try to save a few bucks. And the bottom line is that the general contractors that use the unscrupulous subcontractors that operate in this manner still make a ton of money. Margins are off the charts for the subs, because they’re not paying proper workman’s comp, they’re not paying taxes, and they’re exploiting a workforce where they’re violating state and federal laws, you know, labor laws and things of that nature. And it’s something that is an epidemic in some States. And in other States, it’s kind of just been growing and growing.

Bill Sproule (19:17):

And I’m going to say, you know, 30 some years ago when I was a roofer, you never really saw too much of this, not even with the home builders. And, but then it started happening in the residential industry. And then I think when the housing bust took place you know, before the great recession and everything, that’s when it really took off in the commercial industry where these unscrupulous subcontractors and, you know, developers and people that are looking to cut corners and make more money on their investments and save money would rather go down that path then and use a legitimate contractor that pays their workers, fair wages, benefits, and it’s just devastating to the industry. And if it keeps going unchecked and keeps growing we have a real battle on our hands. I deal with this you know in the DC Virginia market and the Maryland markets are ravaged by this practice.

Bill Sproule (20:22):

New Jersey probably has about 35 to 40,000 construction workers. They are working off the books. We’re starting to see it in places like Jersey City and up in the big urban areas now where multimillion dollar projects are being done with crews that are second, third tier subcontractors off the books, and we’re trying to get state government to step up. We know right now, federal government’s not going to do much about it. They’ve been watering down the IRS ever since going back probably two or three presidents ago. And it’s something that this is our battle cry. We did rallies last year in multiple locations on a tax day, April 15th, and we’re gearing up to do it again. And we’re going to continue to educate the public elected officials and anyone we can about this issue and how it affects everybody.

Jon O’Brien (21:24):

Absolutely. It’s a, it’s a huge issue. And I proudly stood with my carpenter friends at some of those rallies spoke at some of the rallies, testified alongside the carpenters. I just got to commend you and your staff and your people for doing an excellent job shedding light on this very serious issue. So Bravo to you, keep it up.

Bill Sproule (21:46):

Thank you very much, Jon.

Jon O’Brien (21:48):

Yeah. Any other big issues that you guys are looking at?

Bill Sproule (21:54):

Absolutely. You know, the industry apprenticeships that the United States Department of Labor and President Trump, I’ve been considering and there was actually a period of time where you could write in and comment on what you as an individual or an organization thought about that stuff. And I know there was hundreds of thousands of responses. We were very proactive. I have seven joint apprentice training funds that I co-chair throughout our council. And we had everyone of our training directors help weigh in on the issue. And we created a response that was kind of a collaboration throughout the council on why this should not happen in the construction industry. And when you look at some of the apprentice programs that have been active outside of the union trades and ours in particular, the UBC carpenter apprentice programs, they’re very watered down.

Bill Sproule (23:06):

There was no clear way of identifying whether or not people are actually fulfilling their obligations with their actual training. And they’re on the job training hours and things of that nature. And quite frankly, there was little or no data out there that actually proves that there’s even graduations and folks that are succeeding on to becoming journey folks. On the other hand, when you look at our stuff, it’s very regimented it’s dollar earned either by the States or the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training. And I had came through the program and I’m extremely proud that I did. And I think it’s a shame that there’s forces out there that want to water this down and allow the same contractors that I was talking about earlier that practice payroll fraud and cheat day in and day out to actually insinuate that they have an apprentice program and have apprentices on their projects that they’re trying to mentor and help them become journey people and create a long lasting career for them because it’s total BS.

Bill Sproule (24:23):

I mean, it’s absurd, but you know, we just have to keep fighting the fight. Our adversaries think that because of what’s going on down in Washington right now, and the administration that they’ve got the upper hand, but the reality is there’s nothing better than a union apprenticeship in this country when it comes to trades, especially when it comes to carpenters, millwrights, dock builders, floor layers, and a perfect example of that is yesterday. When I was out at the Shell Cracker plant, the contractor out there, it’s an offshoot of Bechtel, which everybody knows they’re huge you know, multinational contractor. They actually work all over the world, but the contractor called great Arrow Builders, which is the signatory that is employing a lot of our folks out there and self performing a lot of different things.

Bill Sproule (25:23):

From the scaffold, we have scaffolded subcontractors out there was over 1100 workers on that site right now that are UBC members, carpenters, millwrights, scaffold builders, there’s 240 apprentices on that site. And when I tell you what an organized well-run efficient, safe job site that was to tour yesterday and be down in the labyrinths of a $6 billion project, it was totally amazing. And what I heard from talking to some of the folks, some of our people, was that a similar project had recently been built, I guess, over the past five or eight years down in Louisiana. And it was the same type of a project. And it was before they were considering coming up into this area and doing the Cracker Plant. And basically there’s milestones that have been met on this project where we’ve absolutely out shined the performance of the workers down in Louisiana.

Bill Sproule (26:34):

That was an open shop job. And although, you know, people may not come out and admit it from the corporate world and all that stuff. It’s leaking out there that man, you know, the folks in Western PA that are on that project and all the traveling trades people from the carpenter’s union and all the other unions that are out there building that magnificent facility are doing a knockdown job. I mean, it’s incredible the praise that they’re getting, the safety record, things of that nature. So, we just have to keep making sure that we are promoting what we really are. We are the best in the business: we’re well-trained, we’re professionals. We promote ongoing training and journeymen upgrade, and there should be no reason why any medium or large construction site should ever consider not using those types of workers to build their buildings or their facilities or whatever it is that they’re constructing.

Jon O’Brien (27:49):

Amen to that well said. Yeah. I do a lot of outreach to the clients and the end users, you know, promoting our contractors. And when asked about the workforce, a common word I always use is spoiled. I say, our contractors are spoiled because of the carpenters that we employ on our job sites, you know from the quality construction, safety, and reliable drug free and just a world class best training program. So, we’re spoiled. So thank you for that. Thank you for spoiling us contractors.

Bill Sproule (28:30):

Absolutely done. I want to give you another quick example. Something just popped into my head. That is a perfect real life example of you get what you pay for. There’s a project that unfortunately went open shop down on the coast down in Monmouth County. It’s in Asbury park. And it’s an one of the types of projects that I actually get pretty upset when my team tells me: ”Oh, well, sorry, boss you know that one’s not us. It’s you know, it went non-union.: We’ve been doing investigations. The project might not even be done yet. It’s probably four years in the making, or maybe they’re close. They’re probably gonna try to turn key it maybe by this summer, but it’s a large probably like a 22 story condominium building rather large.

Bill Sproule (29:27):

And, and they went in there and they’ve been pecking away at this thing. And as you know, time is money. So they got very unscrupulous, low budget contractors in there to get their best price points. But when it came to the interior systems piece, they had hired someone that we know is no good. And basically hires people off the books and then hires the third tier subs. You hire people that just show up and it’s just a real mess, a hot mess. Well, the interior guys had all the doors and hardware as well in their contract. And I learned, I guess about six months ago that one of our signatory contractors that specializes in doors and hardware had to go in on a, we won’t even call it a punch list because it was basically every door, every piece of hardware in this whole building.

Bill Sproule (30:30):

And I’m probably talking about 400 plus condominiums that are in this place. They had to go into this site and practically fix everything. And my point is we do it right the first time, the punch lists are very minimal. Time is money and you get what you pay for. And I’m actually going to follow back up and try to find out from our subcontractor how many hours they logged, fixing every one of those doors and in this multimillion dollar mid-rise building, and hopefully utilize that as a poster child for developers and end users to certainly consider hiring the right contractors that use the best labor force in the industry to do their projects. Yes, indeed. Yeah.

Jon O’Brien (31:24):

Yeah. If you don’t mind sharing any, any sort of case studies that you have, I’m always promoting the contractors, like I said earlier. But yeah, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussion, like to keep it up. And Chris, do you have anything you want to add?

Chris Martin:

Oh, Bill, this has been great. It’s been a great chance to get to know you a little bit more and hear your work style and the approach that you bring. So thank you very much. I’m pretty sure our listeners are going to be very happy and hopefully you’ll be hearing from a lot of the KCA members and even other folks in the construction industry in the future.

Bill Sproule (32:03):

Sure. Thank you, Chris. Absolutely. I look forward to it. Guys, I got one more thing I want to bring to your attention, Jon. I haven’t been able to talk to you about this only because it seems like I get a little break and then I’m shot out of a cannon and then all the races again, I think, you know, being on seven health and welfare pension funds kind of keeps me busy every quarter alone, but we just developed a new department within KML and now Eastern Atlantic States called Industry & Labor Compliance. And I have them working hand in hand with our Political Department, our Communications Department and our Organizing Department. I’m starting to commingle these groups into one unit. That’ll basically also work with each region, like the guys out in Lebanon and up in Scranton and out in Duncansville, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, you name it.

Bill Sproule (33:04):

But we did case studies on every state within our council and we know what the laws are on the books against the unscrupulous contractors, as well as the prevailing wage laws. And the new gentleman that I hired for this department is very well versed. And he’s already conducted a couple of hundred forensic audits and we’ve filed complaints with various Department of Labors. Primarily started off in New Jersey cause that’s where he was very familiar with issues, but I have him now educating my teams in Pennsylvania and working with L & I in Harrisburg. We’re looking at Maryland, we’re looking at Delaware, we’re looking at DC, Virginia, but you’re going to hear more and more about this. And we’re trying to plan something right now. And I guess I’m going to have to break this up into regions, but we would like to invite the contractors to come in, meet us and hear about what we’re doing with this new department.

Bill Sproule (34:01):

So once I can figure out when we might be able to schedule something, instead of doing multiple meetings I’m thinking maybe we have Jon, your association come in, maybe I’ll invite the guys from the Pittsburgh area and as well as maybe we’ll do it in Philadelphia and Ben Connors and GBCA, and all those folks will come in. And we’d like to share with you some of the stuff that we’re building here, that’s going to be a very powerful, excuse me, as well as help us fight this issue that we have at hand.

Jon O’Brien (34:41):

Sounds amazing. That sounds awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it and meeting this gentleman. And I can tell you firsthand, whenever I discuss this topic about labor compliance and labor issues with the contractors, and I tell them what the carpenters are doing, at first there was a little hesitation, like, are you sure they’re doing all this? You know, but now they hear directly from the reps and they know that yes, you guys are doing a lot on the issue. And we’re ready to work with you more on the issue. So yeah, it’s very exciting for us.

Bill Sproule (35:15):

Yeah. I think you’re going to see a lot in the next six months with regards to this you know, it used to be some of the representatives were pretty tenacious with this kind of stuff, but it was very limited. And I set out to try to start to educate them and it’s almost like not enough time in a day. You know, a lot of these guys feel like they’re multitasking, but by having this specific department now that can help do a lot of the administrative work and a lot of the tedious stuff that has to be done in order to file a proper complaint. We’re up and running. And you know, I can tell the unscrupulous contractors with all sincerity that we’re coming to a town near, you

Jon O’Brien (36:03):

Let’s do this. I’m excited. I can imagine there’s going to be a few unscrupulous contractors shaking a little bit here. Cause the force of the carpenters coming after him, it was going to be quite impressive.

Bill Sproule (36:17):

Yeah. We’ve already got that going on. Actually, we’ve actually signed a couple of outfits that were ABC affiliates over in Jersey because of this endeavor. So they decided to come over from the dark side. So I’m really looking forward to this program.  

Chris Martin (36:35):

Well Bill thank you for giving us the time today. I appreciate you helping us understand a little bit more about the EAS and the transition that you’re going through and look forward to many more conversations here on Building PA podcast.

Bill Sproule (36:51):

Yeah, absolutely. Gentlemen, I appreciate you having me this morning and have a wonderful rest of the week and we’re going to get off to the rest of our business that we have out here in the lovely town of Pittsburgh. Thank you, gentlemen. Have a good day. Bye bye.

Building PA Podcast: Season 1 – Episode 7: Leadership, ACE Mentor Program

After Chris Martin and I launched the Building PA Podcast in April 2020 and released about 20 episodes, we were approached by a podcast consultant. This professional offered to give our podcast a listen and provide some advice to us. After he listened to this episode about the ACE Mentor Program, he said this was an excellent one, probably our best so far. He said our guest, Allison Hanna, was an energized speaker who you could tell really enjoyed talking about the topic she was invited on the show to discuss. To listen, and to see if you think her excitement is contagious, visit: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/leadership-in-construction-ace-mentoring-61532379/

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to The Building PA Podcast, a construction industry podcast recorded right here in the great state of Pennsylvania. My name is Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association, and joining me is Chris Martin, the other co-host from Atlas Marketing, they tell stories to people that make things. Hello, Chris, how’s it going? You ready for another great episode?

Chris Martin:

I am very excited about this episode. I understand that you’ve lined up a great person to talk about ACE Mentor. So I’m real excited about this. This is good. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Jon O’Brien:

I mean the start of every year KCA surveys its membership, its contractor members. And we want to know about, you know the upcoming construction season: how much work do they anticipate? And we look a lot at employment as well. So we want to know, do you plan on hiring people this year and the results we got? I’ll share them with you right now. So from our construction company members, they, 64% expect to increase employees in the field and 35% construction companies in Pennsylvania expect to increase professionals in the office. So there sounds about online with the national average, right? Yes, absolutely. Yes. So there is a, quite a challenge for the industry to, to get the word out there and raise some awareness of these great careers in the industry. And, and there’s a lot of great groups out there. Like you touched on an ACE mentor earlier and today I’m glad to welcome. Alison Hannah. Alison is a alum of the ACE mentor program. And you want to say hello to the crowd? Alison?

Allison Hanna (01:43):

Yes. Hello everyone. Okay.

Jon O’Brien (01:45):

Yeah. We’re glad. We’re glad you could join us. I’m very glad. Thank you. You’re a engineer with Snyder security and associates.

Allison Hanna (01:54):

Yeah. Yes. I’m a landscape architect with Snyder security and associates.

Jon O’Brien (01:59):

Awesome. And you’re also the, the resident ACE expert in my eyes.

Allison Hanna (02:08):

Yeah. I think it’s a little bit on both sides of the program. So I, I know it pretty well. Yeah,

Jon O’Brien (02:13):

Absolutely. So, so for the benefit of our audience, could you kind of introduce them to ACE?

Allison Hanna (02:18):

Yes. Gladly. So ACE Mentor Program. ACE stands for Architecture, Construction and Engineering, and it is a national program. And basically, what it is, it’s an afterschool program designed to attract high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in what I mentioned before architecture, construction and engineering. And we also include skilled trades in there as well. It’s not just the people sitting in their office, so we get them involved with a little bit of the skilled trades too. So nationally there are about 70 affiliates. And then it’s operating in 37 States too. So you can see how big this program is. And we have our own chapter here in central PA and within the central PA chapter, we have programs in Dauphin County, in York County, in Lebanon, and in Lancaster, and then the County that I am, the chair of is Cumberland County, but we also include Perry County in there as well.

Allison Hanna (03:22):

So kind of my background, if I can go into that, if that’s okay.

Jon O’Brien:

Absolutely.

Allison Hanna:

Okay. So my background in the program is when I was in high school, my senior year from 2009, until 2010, I was a student in the program and this was the first year that it was offered at my high school in Cumberland Valley. And I also went to come on, Perry Vo Tech too. And my teacher told me that this program was coming in and it was kind of be good for me to go and like network with all the people there and kind of get a feel of all these different programs and different sessions that they offer to the kids. So I was like, sure, why not? I’ll go sign up. And I know they had a landscape architecture session. And when I went, I don’t think that I learned about all these different things, but when I went through it for the landscape architecture session, they had a landscape designer, like a local landscape designer come in and design residential projects.

Allison Hanna (04:17):

And in my head, I’m thinking I want to do more than just residential stuff. I want to do commercial. I want to do bigger things. So I told myself as soon as I graduated with my degree, that I was going to come back and, and be a mentor. So after like a year of graduating from college, I kind of got myself situated at home in the working professional world. And in 2015, I came in as a mentor in the Cumberland County program. And a couple of years after that, then they wanted me to kind of coordinate the Cumberland County program. So I got involved with that. And then I’m also a board member on the central PA chapter as well. Just doing a little bit of everything with ACE mentor here in central PA.

Jon O’Brien (05:00):

Absolutely. Yeah. Your efforts are awesome and appreciated. So keep it up.

Allison Hanna (05:06):

Yes. I love doing it.

Chris Martin (05:08):

Yeah. Keep it up. I like that. Can I ask you a real quick question? Alison, you mentioned that you went to Cumberland Valley. Where’d you go to college?

Allison Hanna (05:17):

I went to Temple University. Yeah. So they offer a four year degree in landscape architecture, whereas most schools it’s five years. So I just, didn’t want to spend that extra year in college. That’s why I decided to go to Temple.

Chris Martin (05:31):

That makes complete sense to me.

Allison Hanna (05:33):

Yeah. Save a little bit of money.

Chris Martin (05:37):

Yeah. Was there any assistance from ACE, either finding a college or while you’re in college, any sort of outreach or connection with ACE at all?

Allison Hanna (05:46):

Yeah. Through ACE. I mean, what I loved about it was so each session we go through, so we go through a little bit of everything between architecture, civil engineering, like I said, landscape architecture all the way down through like construction, admin and management. But we have working professionals that come in and give a brief presentation about like what they do. And then also kind of the skill set. You need to go into that field and then also do like a little work session to kind of like, get you integrated about like what you would do on like a daily like your daily work life. So during that time, I always like myself included when I was going through the program, but I always encourage the students to talk to these mentors, like network with them, get all the information you can. Cause they’ll be the people that you can go to, to ask for like a job shadow or even like an internship once you get to college and everything. Right.

Jon O’Brien (06:43):

And as far as hearing about ACE, you had mentioned that that your high school teacher had mentioned something to you about it. Is that kind of the typical route, how kids hear about it?

Allison Hanna (06:51):

Yeah. Mainly what we do at least in Cumberland County is we reach out to all of the all the schools in Cumberland and Perry County, their guidance counselors, career counselors, and they get the information out to the students or if they have particular teachers that they know that they know or like related to those fields, they will contact those teachers. And those teachers will get the word out to the kids. Yeah. My particular instance was at Vo Tech my teacher there, she knew I wanted to go into landscape architecture and she heard the program was just starting. So she wanted me to get involved with it.

Chris Martin (07:27):

Are there any challenges when it comes to running a program, it sounds pretty complex and it could cause you’re in all these different counties and all these different mentors are needed. So what are some challenges?

Allison Hanna (07:39):

Yes. I think our major challenge is definitely getting mentors to come and donate their time. I know it’s a little hard for some mentors to show up week after week, which I don’t expect mentors to show up every single week. Cause our program does run from like the middle of October all the way to the middle of March. So I know it could be a big commitment. But as long as you can come for just a couple of the sessions, especially like our work sessions that we have with the kids to really get them to know about what field and like the field that they’re going into and how it relates back to the big overall project that we have the kids work on. So each year we have like a different almost like a set project for the kids.

Allison Hanna (08:26):

So this year in Cumberland County, there is a project in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania that we’re working on, that the kids in architecture get to design the architecture of the building, the students in civil engineering will get to actually design the site and figure out the parking. And if they want to get into stormwater, if they can do that too. And my kids that are interested in landscape architecture, I make them pick plants and kind of figure out native versus non native and just like little things like that, that you would get to do on a daily basis at work.

Jon O’Brien (08:57):

Do you know of any sort of feedback or data that shows the positives of the ACE mentor?

Allison Hanna (09:03):

I personally, I don’t, but what I love about the program is that I see kids coming back year after year. It’s not just like a one year you do it and you’re done. We have had many, many students come back year after year. It goes through the program. Cause you learn something new each year. And I learned something new each year, cause it’s not like we have the same mentors that come back each year, some years we have different mentors that can help out cause the other mentor the previous year that has time restraints and everything. I mean I learned something new each year and I always encourage the kids to not just make this a one year and done thing like come back next year. It’s gonna be beneficial to you.

Jon O’Brien (09:47):

Have you also seen students come back after they graduate college? Have you seen any other alumni?

Allison Hanna (09:53):

Hmmm not in Cumberland County and I think because I’ve only been involved in since 2015 that hopefully in these next couple of years, I’ll start seeing some of the kids that I knew when I was going to mentor program come back. But I know in other central PA programs, I think in Dauphin County, they also have kids that were students come back and be a mentor there for the program, which is great news. We love that. Cause it definitely helps the other mentors that have come in and aren’t exactly sure about the program and it’s always good to have those people that went through the program, actually know how you feel when you sit there and you listen to the mentors talk the whole entire time and you kind of see like what works and what doesn’t.

Chris Martin (10:42):

Coming from the student’s side, Alison your experience is from the vocational technical side. Are you seeing that? Are you seeing that also for current students now? Are they coming more from the vo-tech vocational technical side or, you know, the, the general population,

Allison Hanna (11:01):

It feels like at least for Cumberland County, we have a lot more coming from just like the normal high school. We have very few that come from the vo-tech, which is unfortunate. Cause I kind of, I mean, being an alumni there too, I would like to see more of that because what I enjoyed about it was even though when I was going through vo-tech I got that experience, but we didn’t get like working professionals insights. Like we would get working professionals that would come in, but every single week, same working professionals, I’m learning about all these different career fields that you will have to work with you and you have to work with everybody getting that side was invaluable.

Allison Hanna (11:43):

Yeah. And I would imagine too, having the ability to work with a diverse way of thinking you know, not just you know, traditional high school approach or, you know, the, the VoTech, the vocational technical side has a little bit of a different way to look at things. So that’s going to be an advantage.

Chris Martin:

Yeah. Well, on that note are you typically seeing from your perspective and again, in your experience, who are the mentors? What are you looking for in a mentor so that they can, you know, people can or know, our listeners can look at it and say, Hey, this is something I need to get involved in. So from that mentoring perspective, what do you look for?

Allison Hanna (12:29):

Any mentor that has the willingness and wants to come in and talk to the kids. Sometimes we get mentors that just kind of show up and like sit in the back of the room, which is fine. Like we just need people there, but I love the mentors that can go up and talk to the kids, really get to know them and just teach them about what they do. So having like a person who will mentor, I just hold onto them and I try to keep them coming around year after year.

Chris Martin (12:54):

I don’t blame you. I’m like, no, I’ve done some mentoring myself. And I’ve always found that experience has been very helpful. You know, the longterm value of mentoring. Do you feel that it’s probably one of the challenges that you’re running into?

Allison Hanna (13:25):

Maybe I don’t understand your question. I’m sorry.

Chris Martin (13:27):

That’s okay. Like are you saying that, you know, the mentors that are coming in and are almost kind of expecting this, you know, immediate gratification versus the fact that, you know, they’re helping high school age students figure out where they want to go and kind of the return on that and time investment, if you will, is going to be probably five, 10, maybe even 15 years down the road. Do you see that as a challenge?

Allison Hanna (13:57):

Definitely. I think for the mentors that come in for maybe just one session, they’re not exactly understanding the whole process of ACE, right? So, I mean, we start from October and we go until March. So they get weeks upon weeks of learning all these different fields. And you have some kids that are interested in certain aspects. So you have kids that are really interested in architecture and that’s early on. And then they kind of slowly throughout like the sessions, they just lose interest. But once we get back to the work sessions, kind of near the end, that’s when their excitement builds back up. So when you have that architecture kid, whenever we’re kind of near the end and they’re listening to electrical and they’re like, Ugh, I don’t like this just isn’t as exciting, but when they come back from the work sessions, especially for me, cause I mean, I see these kids week after week and I see how like, I can see how differently they act and seeing them doing the work sessions. And then when they have to do their final presentation at the end and like that little light bulb goes off in their head, it just makes it all worth it. And having those mentors there as they go through the whole thing, they understand it.

Chris Martin (15:01):

Yeah. That that’s good to hear. So what I’m taking from you is give it a chance if you’re considering being a mentor you know, the instant gratification is if this is a longterm game versus a short term game.

Allison Hanna (15:16):

Yeah. And especially when you have those certain kids throughout the sessions that come up to you and ask you those questions. I mean, I personally grasp onto these kids too, and I want to see them do well. And even a couple of kids, like I’ll talk to them even after they go through the program and graduate and are off to college. Like if they have questions, they can always come back and ask me questions.

Chris Martin (15:36):

Yeah. And to that point, do you find that the kids are engaging from that perspective?

Allison Hanna (15:42):

Oh yeah. Cause I think they know, I think they understand that we’re there to help them and we’re there to guide them. Cause it’s not always an easy process trying to figure out what you want to do. And then also deciding on top of it, like where you want to go to school and the past to get a job around the area, if you still want to stay here. So that’s what I want these kids to get out of the program that we’re not just there to kind of teach them just that session. We’re there for as long as they let us.

Jon O’Brien (16:13):

Well, that’s good though. I had a question and I forgot it. Well, as you know, I’ve been around ACE for around 10 years now, dating back to my Pittsburgh days. And when Pittsburgh launched its ACE mentor chapter and, and when I moved here, ACE national contacted the board in central PA and so I continue to be a fan. And I constantly pound that drum beat the drum about the mentors do not get enough recognition.

Allison Hanna (16:46):

They do not you’re right.

Jon O’Brien (16:49):

Yes. So that’s my goal is to get more recognition for all of you mentors, to not only encourage you guys to do more and get more involved, but then to draw more into the program.

Allison Hanna (17:02):

Yes we are. We are always looking for more mentors, mentors. There’s never enough.

Jon O’Brien (17:07):

Yeah, absolutely. So any, any ideas, suggestions, I’ll keep doing what I can to help, but don’t hesitate to ask us at all. And maybe this program, this episode can help too.

Allison Hanna (17:19):

Yeah, I sure hope so.

Jon O’Brien (17:21):

Yeah. And to that point, Alison, how, you know, I was in Pittsburgh, but now in central Pennsylvania and obviously, how can a listener to our episode get involved? Is there a place they can go? Can I call you, help our listeners out?

Allison Hanna (17:40):

Yeah. So the easiest way to go about finding more information about ACE mentor and also how to contact anybody in your area is go to ACE. So it’s www.ACEmentor.org and there’s tons of information there. It’s just general knowledge about ACE mentor, how students can get involved also mentors and volunteers. And then even in that mentors and volunteers section, there’s a nice little map of the United States and it takes you to different sections in the United States and you can click on different affiliates and then it has all of their contact information there.

Jon O’Brien (18:15):

Great. That will definitely help. Absolutely. Yeah. We’ll make sure to spread the word too after the podcast we’ll blast that info out as well. Yeah. So question for you, Alison, what has been your, your greatest experience or effort to date with mentoring?

Allison Hanna (18:41):

Hmm. I think personally, I just really loved working with the students. I feel like that’s my bread and butter of this whole thing. As much as I love working with the mentors I really love working with the students and just seeing them from day one, when they come into our orientation session and them thinking that they want to do one thing, like they have their mind and heart set on them wanting to do this one aspect of the ACE career field. And they start going through all these sessions and they learn more and then they start realizing that’s not exactly what they thought that was about. And they learn so much more about other disciplines and then they changed their mind and then they start working with the mentors more. And I feel like that’s my favorite part is seeing these kids, like when the light bulb goes on in their head and they realize that maybe what they thought they wanted to do, wasn’t exactly what they originally thought. And then just going into their final presentation and just, I don’t know. I just love seeing that little light bulb moment and them kind of glowing when they realize that, yes, this is what I want to do. That’s great. And even the kids that come in, even the kids that come in and they think they want to do something in these fields and then they come out thinking, Oh, I don’t want to do any of this. I’m fine with that too. That’s why we’re here. Yeah.

Chris Martin (20:05):

Awesome stuff. That is great. That is fantastic. Well Alison is anything else you’d like to talk about while we’re still here?

Allison Hanna (20:17):

I think that’s one thing I want to add is if you’re thinking about becoming a mentor, just come out to one of the sessions talk to the leaders, talk to the other mentors there, talk to the students. It’s so rewarding and I just wish there was more people that will come out and well, like Jon said, we’ll do our part. We’ll try to get as many people out there to focus on ACE mentoring and, and hopefully we’ll help that achieve it. We can do it.

Chris Martin (20:44):

Yeah. We can all do it. Yeah. Nothing wrong with giving back. Right.

Allison Hanna (20:50):

Oh, there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Jon O’Brien (20:51):

Yeah. Good. Well Alison on behalf of building PA podcasts, I want to say thanks for joining us.

Allison Hanna (21:01):

So thank you for having me.

Chris Martin (21:02):

Thank you so much. This was awesome. Very thorough. I loved it. Yeah. Very thorough. And as Jon has said in previous episodes, we’ll be following up with you in a few months and have you come back and maybe we could build upon this conversation and really help our listeners see you in the future and where ACE mentoring is headed.

Allison Hanna (21:25):

I would love that in a couple of months, we will be done with our Cumberland County session so I can come back with a report of all of my students.

Jon O’Brien (21:32):

Fantastic. Thank you so much.

Allison Hanna (21:34):

You are welcome. Thank you for having me.

Building PA Podcast: Season 1 – Episode 5: Workforce Development, Sheet Metal Workers

In 2019 when I approached the KCA Board of Directors to suggest that we launch a podcast, the first question I received was: ‘what topics do you think we should cover?’ I said, I think the topics for construction are endless from safety to succession planning to business development to BIM to ……the list went on and on (trust me I was prepared for this question and reeled off a nice list). I ended with this list with workforce development. I said we should heavily lean on workforce development to showcase all the great careers in construction.

Now I don’t want to speak for Chris Martin, co-host of Building PA Podcast, but I think we hit a homerun on our first workforce development episode when we had Joshua Moore of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 12. I think Joshua’s passion and excitement for his trade come across in this episode. Below is the transcript and here is the recording: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/apprenticeship-training-sheet-metal-workers-61532372/.

Oh by the way, yes you do earn while you learn! Pass it on to future builders!

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Building Pennsylvania. A podcast series dedicated to Pennsylvania’s construction industry. I am Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association,

Chris Martin (00:14):

And this is Chris Martin with Atlas Martin.

Jon O’Brien (00:16):

So we have a great episode for you today. As you may recall, we like to focus on anything and everything related to the industry. Anything from safety, construction contracts, labor relations, you know all that fun stuff, but we also want to devote a lot of effort into workforce development and we’re excited to have with us today Joshua Moore from the Sheet Metal Workers Union, Local 12.

Chris Martin (00:42):

Welcome Josh.

Josh Moore:

Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having me today.

Jon O’Brien (00:46):

Let’s jump into the meat of the episode here. You just want to provide a couple minute introduction on yourself just to let us know who we’re talking with. Okay.

Josh Moore (00:55):

Yeah, sure. I’m the apprenticeship coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers, Local 12 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but we cover 23 counties in Western Pennsylvania. And I oversee the apprenticeship and training for the local.

Jon O’Brien (01:08):

It’s a big territory you got there.

Josh Moore (01:10):

Yeah, we do. We cover quite a bit of a of area. So you know, we’re looking for people from all around Western Pennsylvania

Jon O’Brien (01:19):

And our industry definitely needs people.

Josh Moore (01:21):

Absolutely. Absolutely. Recruitment is one of the toughest challenges that we face along with retention. So it’s, it’s great to get something like this out here where we can we can reach some different people.

Chris Martin (01:34):

Absolutely. And part of our effort also is to work with local school districts and K through 12 educational school boards across the state. So for the benefit of this audience, you just want to introduce, what is a sheet metal worker? What exactly do they do? What type of projects, you know, all that good stuff.

Josh Moore (01:55):

Fortunately for a sheet metal worker, we do a wide variety of things. We have sheet metal workers that don’t touch sheet metal. You know, we have drafting people, we have planning and ticketing. We have estimating and we have welders, we have installers, we have all kinds of people and jobs within the sheet metal industry. So it’s not just specifically one thing.

Jon O’Brien (02:23):

So since it’s not just one thing, I assume that training is more complex,

Joshua Moore (02:30):

Absolutely. We’re looking for people that are interested in all kinds of different things. Our apprenticeship program offers people the opportunity to pick a career path. We’re a five year program. So they get to in their fifth year kind of concentrating on a particular sector of the industry, which benefits the member.

Chris Martin (02:53):

So it’s a five year program. Can you kind of walk us through the first year or two and you know, that obviously the workers are getting their feet wet and kind of understanding the trade and the industry. Can you walk us through that process?

Joshua Moore (03:08):

We usually bring apprentices in July. And that’s when they start their first year of apprenticeship. We, we go to school for a week. We’re a day school. So you go to school for a week, then you’re off for six weeks. Then you come to school for a week. So you do that five times a year. So you go for 200 hours a year here at the training center. But while you’re in training, you’re eligible to receive unemployment. So you’re not completely out of making a living as you’re getting trained. So you get paid while you learn. No one is having to miss out on making a living while they’re learning the trade. So you don’t have to be still living at home. You can be someone that’s a different stages of life and still become an apprentice with local 12. Those first two years you’re in and out of a shop. You’re learning the trade, you’re getting familiar with different aspects of the trade. So in those last couple of years of apprenticeship, you can kind of concentrate on what you like. And then after your fifth year, you become a journeyman. And obviously, you know, the sky’s the limit once that happens.

Chris Martin (04:24):

When you say that an apprentice or someone applies and it starts in July, is it only a small window of time for you to apply or do you accept applications year out?

Joshua Moore (04:37):

We accept applications year round. Usually our deadline is the end of February is when we’ll stop accepting them because we have to start scoring applications, getting interviews ready, getting things set up for the selection process to get into the apprenticeship. But there’s also a limited apprenticeship that you can apply for. Whereas you’re waiting to become a first year apprentice and to get into the program, you can work as a limited apprentice. What that means is you’re limited to a little bit of what you’re able to do. So you’re assigned to a shop. You won’t be out on job sites mainly because you haven’t received the proper OSHA training that you need to be on those job sites. So to keep you safe, they keep you in the shop. And that’s something that can help you out when you do go to your interview for your apprenticeship is that you’re already in with local 12, you’re working towards your apprenticeship and you’re familiar with what we do. It’s a little different, huh? Yeah, it’s it is. But it definitely helps. That’s someone that you’re probably going to retain as someone that has done a limited apprenticeship. They’ve kind of already know what they’re getting into when they get into the apprenticeship.

Chris Martin (05:52):

I like the approach that you’re taking, where you’re putting them in the shop before they’re actually out on the job. That actually gives people a good understanding. One other question for you, and then Jon, I’ll hand it back over to you, cause I know you have some questions for those listeners that don’t know anything at all about what a sheet metal does. Can you give a quick overview of what you guys work in HVHC commercial, residential, those types of things.

Joshua Moore:

Most of our contractors are commercial installers. They do commercial installations of duct work. We do things like a hospital work buildings downtown. We have a lot of work, fire, damper inspections things like that. And then on the shop, we have guys that actually make the duct they ticket it, they run it through, they make it, or the last tray that actually takes a flat piece of metal makes our own product and installs it yourself. We take it from the drawing board all the way to the job site and we do it from flat to finish. So as you can imagine, that opens up all kinds of different career paths within sheet metal.

Jon O’Brien (07:14):

We all know this and we hear it all the time, but every time I talk to schools and especially the students, they get amazed when the first question is, okay, how much is it going to cost me for this program? How much is it going to cost them?

Joshua Moore:

Free. Yes. Earn while you learn,

Jon O’Brien (07:30):

You gotta love that earn while you learn.

Joshua Moore:

And this is the one thing that we do ask is that you give us a little bit of time. You don’t compete against us with the training that you received. I think that’s a pretty fair deal. We ask that you work with us and, you stay with us and why wouldn’t you, the benefits are phenomenal. The opportunities are phenomenal. I, myself as a sheet metal has been wonderful to me and my family. And it’s been even better since it’s with a union contractor.

Jon O’Brien (08:09):

Absolutely. And since you mentioned benefits, could you touch on that kind of briefly?

Joshua Moore (08:13):

Absolutely. A first year apprentice starts out at $20.84. When a sheet metal worker gets out of his or her apprenticeship right now, they’re making $36.21, that’s with full benefits, that’s medical, dental, vision, annuity, pension. We have a benefit which is known as (?sp?) sashimi that you put into every hour. And what that is, is if you were to ever get laid off, you would be able to draw from that fund either monetarily for bills or for medical benefits. If you ran out of hours and you needed to supplement those hours to continue to keep your medical benefits, you’re able to do so. And if you don’t use that money, we are one of the last to have 30, 55. So if you have 30 years of service and you’re age 55, you can retire, you can then take that sashimi to supplement your healthcare and pay for that healthcare while you’re retired until you’re eligible for social security. So that’s a wonderful benefit that a lot of people don’t think about as they’re younger, because they’re not looking at that, but that’s something that is great for a sheet metal worker.

Jon O’Brien (09:33):

That is awesome. Wow, that’s fantastic.

Chris Martin (09:37):

We just you know, why anyone would want to go any other direction it blows my mind. So Josh, can you repeat that?

Jon O’Brien (09:48):

The wages again for a starting apprentice it’s????

Joshua Moore (09:52):

Right now starting apprentice first year apprentices at $20.84. And when they get out of their apprenticeship, they’re at $36.21, that’s a negotiated wage that will change yearly under this four year contract. So next year they’ll get a raise the following year, they’ll get another raise. So we try to stay in line with kind of what the cost of living, because that’s what we do. We work and live here in the community.

Jon O’Brien (10:18):

So you’re probably seeing all sorts of students. You’ve touched a bunch, you know, others, are there any sort of traits that you see that make one more successful than others.

Joshua Moore (10:30):

Self-motivators, someone that knows what it takes to be successful with someone that is able to motivate themselves to get up and come to work every day. These are adult jobs that require you to be here every day because they’re multimillion dollar projects. They’re very important in the contractors within this local depend on you to be at work. That’s it, you know, the skills will come with the training and the experience. But some things like that are very important for someone to be involved in the construction and building traides.

Jon O’Brien (11:10):

Okay. So picture this, you know, high school student, little Johnny listened to this podcast, he’s like, wow, the benefits are awesome. There’s pay, earn while you learn this all sounds amazing. How do I get in, you know, can I get in, hopefully I get in, in the future, but is there anything now, while I’m in high school, I could do to better position myself and better improve my chances of getting in with the sheet metal workers

Joshua Moore (11:36):

Being proficient in math obviously is very important in any building trade. But some HVHC experience, you know some welding shop experience things like that can really help out when you come to apply for your apprenticeship.

Jon O’Brien (11:56):

Okay. And is there a a good website or contact information for more information?

Joshua Moore (12:02):

You could go to www.SMlocal12.org or you could call my office at 412-828-1386.

Jon O’Brien (12:11):

And you said there’s 23 counties. So are there other locals in Pennsylvania?

Joshua Moore (12:16):

Yes, there are. There’s a Local 19 over in Philadelphia and there’s Local 44, which runs the central part of Pennsylvania.

Jon O’Brien (12:24):

Any other closing statements you have concerning workforce development or anything in general?

Joshua Moore (12:30):

No, just that right now is a great time to be in the building trades. We’re growing and we’re doing big things and doing great things here at Local 12. We got a new training center that’s getting ready to open up. We have some big opportunities here at Local 12, and we appreciate you guys for including us today.

Jon O’Brien (12:53):

Absolutely. We’ll have to check back with you every so often to see how it’s going.

Joshua Moore:

Absolutely. Yeah, definitely.

Chris Martin (13:02):

Definitely. Hey, Josh, thank you so much. I’m sure that you literally have almost eliminated the barriers or obstacles I should say to joining a union opportunity there is fantastic. So thanks to you and your and your brothers. And so thank you.

Joshua Moore:

Thank you. Yeah, we’re going strong and we look forward to seeing the new candidates coming to join the apprenticeship.

Jon O’Brien (13:31):

Take care. We’ll talk later then. Bye. Bye.

Building PA Podcast: Season 1 – Episode 3: Evolve’s Workforce Development Efforts in Harrisburg

NOTE: This episode of the Building PA Podcast focuses on workforce development efforts in the City of Harrisburg by a company called Evolve. Unfortunately schools like Harrisburg School District turned their backs teaching its students hands-on trades and places like the Dauphin County Vo-Tech were bursting at the seams. Our region is lucky to have organizations like Evolve who take it upon themselves to guide youth towards the trades. Here is a transcript of our conversation with Evolve founder and president Patricia Robinson. To hear the entire episode visit: Building PA Podcast Season 1 – Episode 3.

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Building Pennsylvania. My name is Jon O’Brien and I’m from the Keystone Contractors Association.

Chris Martin:

And this is Chris Martin with Atlas Marketing.

Jon O’Brien:

Hey, Chris, hope you’re ready for today. We’re going to talk some more workforce development. Hope that’s okay with you. I can’t wait. And I understand that we’ve got a great, a great person joining us to talk about that and absolutely. Yeah. We have a Patricia Robinson, the founder and owner of Evolve Training. Patricia is calling in from Harrisburg, I believe. Yeah. So welcome. Welcome to the podcast.

Patricia Robinson (00:43):

Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Jon O’Brien (00:45):

Yeah. So before we dive in and we focus on your efforts in workforce development, why don’t you let our listeners know who is Patricia and what is Evolve?

Patricia Robinson (00:56):

Well again, my name is Patricia Robinson and Evolve Training & Development is a training company. We focus primarily on personal development and professional development. And we’ve now moved into some other areas of development in terms of the trades. And we’re working with young people to help them develop a pipeline for students that are in middle school to high school age to be able to get into an apprenticeship program, or at least getting to a trades program that meets their skillset.

Jon O’Brien (01:37):

Now this day and age, it seems like workforce development is the big buzz word. Everyone wants to talk about it, whether it’s in the media, legislators, school boards, everyone’s talking workforce development. I can honestly say, even though I’ve known you a short time, a few months here, you talk the talk and you walk the walk, many people just throw that word out there. And, you know, for starters, before we jump into this interview, I just want to commend you for your efforts and keep it up. The industry needs this.

Patricia Robinson (02:09):

Thank you. Thank you. I truly appreciate that. Thank you so much.

Jon O’Brien (02:12):

Yeah. Do you want to just talk about the program for a little like the various trades that you that you handle?

Patricia Robinson (02:18):

Yes. Yes. We focus on primarily right now on three trades and those trades will be carpentry, plumbing, and electrical. We’re going to be moving in to other areas of three other areas, which will be HVAC, welding and possibly graphic design. But our main focus right now is carpentry, plumbing, and electrical. We are, we’re doing a six week program. That’s just how the program started by just looking at students who were not interested in going to a four year college and just didn’t know where they were going into, but asking the question, what am I going to do next? When I get out of high school, or even as young as middle school asking the question, like, what am I going to do? I really don’t want to go to a four year school. So I don’t know what direction I’m going.

Patricia Robinson (03:12):

And so we developed this program to start with middle school age, because that is the key. And I think the key point and getting them to recognize what they could be good at an early age versus waiting until they’re in high school. When they always already formulated in an ideal what they want to do or what they don’t want to do. And primarily it’s the latter. They don’t want to do it. They may not want to go to college, but they just still don’t know where they want to do. So we try to give them options. And these options are only mainly focused to low income students that are in an economic poverty in terms of just don’t have the resources to go to a school. But we want to provide them with some training skills that will help them identify a trade. That may be something that they will become passionate and doing, and then turn out to be a career, a lifetime career, and they be able to sustain themselves and their families for a long time? And so we start at middle school age because again, I think that is the beginning of really developing their minds and giving them direction versus starting at high school age.

Chris Martin (04:28):

That sounds exciting! Sounds like a really good stuff you got going on there. You mentioned carpentry and I believe you’ve presented the program to the carpenter’s union. Did they have any feedback for you? Any suggestions?

Patricia Robinson (04:42):

Yes, I’m working hand in hand with them. I was able to help them recruit a young lady into their program and she just graduated from their program. So what we’re trying to do is kind of work together and working at looking at our curriculum and their curriculum and combining some things together. And hopefully we will be able to collaborate on our efforts in terms of getting more students, whether it be diversified or just students into the program, because there’s a lack and there’s a shortage not just in this area, but across the United States and tradesmen. And so we want to identify those early so that we can start putting them in the places that fits them the best.

Jon O’Brien (05:28):

Patricia, you mentioned grabbing the students at an early age. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, like, are there mentor opportunities to help the students at that age. I have a middle school daughter, and I’m just trying to think of how to help her get to the point of knowing what she wants to do. And then the other side of that too…

Chris Martin (05:58):

Parents involved like help our listeners understand what kind of helps to bring that middle school age student along?

Patricia Robinson (06:08):

One of the things that we offer in our program is a mentoring program. So we just don’t train them, teach them the trade, but we also use that opportunity to walk hand in hand with them and try to develop not only their professional skillset, but their personal. So we identify areas like low self esteem. We also talk about entrepreneurship. We talk about communication skills. A lot of the kids that are going into the workforce don’t have good communication skills or also they don’t have good word work ethics. So we talked to them about how to really dive into a career choice, but not just a profession, but you also need those soft skills to help you continue to grow. And so we have mentors that are going to be side by side with these students to help them with financial literacy, because you really need to know how to manage and budget in the trades.

Patricia Robinson (07:06):

Primarily because they’re going to be times where you may not be working. This is the season where a lot of carpenters or plumbers, or, you know, if they, they may not have a job to go to. So we want to make sure that in the good season that they’re putting away, they’re saving for those months where they may not have a steady income. So we’re wanting to show them how to budget, how to manage their finances. That’s so important. And those are the skills that are not getting taught in middle school and they’re barely getting them in high school.

Chris Martin (07:37):

Excellent. Those life skills are needed throughout every industry. So that’s awesome. You mentioned middle school and high school. Are there are there certain school districts that you partner with or work with or do they support you? There’s certain schools help you out at all?

Patricia Robinson (07:54):

We are currently working with Steelton Highspire in Harrisburg. That is a small district and they actually have their middle school and their high school combined into one building. So we have been afforded the opportunities starting in January to do a pilot program around Evolve. We’ll be going in there three days a week for two hours the last three periods of their day and talking to them and working with them and training them on the trades. And so it was an elective for these students. So they are electing to choose this program. And we right now have about 60 students that will be starting in the new year, learning the trade. And no two trades that we’re introducing to them in the beginning is electrical and carpentry. As we grow in the next two years, we’re going to be adding on more of those trades because we have partnership with them for at least three years.

Patricia Robinson (08:55):

We are trying to also talk to the Harrisburg School District so that we can bring the trades back to their students. We have also had the opportunity to speak with cyber school, which is a school for students that choose to do their work on a on the computer. They want to talk to us about possibly coming in and teaching the trades to their cyber school students. So they have the opportunity as well. So in the year 2020, we’re looking to work at least with two other entities that want us to come in and train their students on the trades.

Jon O’Brien (09:33):

That sounds like 2020 is going to be a great year for Evolve and all those students that’s amazing. That’s awesome. Hey, one other question for you, knowing our understanding that you’re working with younger students and even the high school age students, what is your typical student like when they come to you? what’s the biggest skill that they have and that you find that they need?

Patricia Robinson (10:05):

Are you referring to the trades or just in general. Just in general, that will be communication. They have, most of the kids are coming with, they don’t know how to be effective in conversation. They don’t know how to handle their emotions. Right. Those are some key things that we have to work on, especially the emotional part get receiving instruction and receiving constructive criticism, those types of things, and then just their attention span because they are now in the computer day and age where kids are focused on the computer. It doesn’t talk back to them unless they require it to talk back. So they don’t know how to have a conversation. So we need to start training our kids on how to detach themselves from their cell phones, from technology, and really communicate one-on-one and build relationships so that they can be successful in whatever field or choice of career they go into.

Chris Martin (11:14):

Right. And it’s funny cause I have daughters that are in the age group that you’re focusing on and I tell them all the time, if you can’t have a conversation with me, you’re not gonna make it too far. And that ability to communicate. So I’m really glad to hear that you’re focusing on that as the first step before you even teach them the carpentry skills or the electrical skills, because that relationship, like you said, is so important to their individual growth. So fantastic to you, hats off to you for that.

Patricia Robinson (11:49):

Yeah. I really think that’s important. And it’s the key to, if you can be confident in yourself and, and the other pieces is if the self image, cause a lot of our kids really don’t know who they are and can’t identify themselves with what they should be doing, because they’re confused. They don’t know what direction to go in and often times some kids are thrown out and saying, you need to do X, Y, and Z, and they’re not given the right tools to be able to do it. So you’re not giving them the tools, how you expect them to be successful, avid added if they was never introduced to it. So I think that’s where we’re expecting them to be adults after they turn 18 and that’s not the case, so we’re doing them a disservice by not giving that skillset. And just thinking that they’re learning it at home and that’s not always the case.

Chris Martin (12:40):

That is so true. One other question I have for you, and as far as that communication skill, are you seeing that the students are getting into the building trades and are actually seeing that element of communications being applied in any way, shape or form?

Patricia Robinson (13:08):

Yes. Yes. I had the opportunity to speak with a one of the representatives from a company, a huge company in Harrisburg. I’m going to plug, or HB McClure. They were doing it at an expo both here in Harrisburg and some of my students were part of that career day. And they were so surprised at the knowledge. Some of the young ladies came to their booth and we’re talking about plumbing and putting things together. And they were so articulate in terms of what, where they got the full set from and how did they learn it? And so HB McClure reached out to me and said they were just amazed at my students wanting to know more about the program. So just being able to go into an atmosphere where they are, what’s unknown to them, but let’s pick something that’s familiar to them and be able to articulate what they learned was a huge, huge plus for those students because they have evolved. And I really was happy to hear that they were able to articulate.

Jon O’Brien (14:15):

Again, congratulations to you and the whole evolve team, because that’s a big element. And to see it actually in places is big. So congratulations for that.

Jon O’Brien (14:26):

You’re obviously only one person. So, you said you can’t teach everyone. Are there instructors on your team? And is that a challenge? Do you need more help from the industry?

Patricia Robinson (14:38):

Yes. it is a challenge and yes, I need more help on the on the team right now. I can’t say I’m a one woman team cause I do have some support system. Now we have about six tradesmen that are currently there working right now on a volunteer basis. Starting in January, they’ll be getting a stipend for working within the school district with me, along with me, I’ll be teaching the soft skills and they’ll be teaching the trades. I will also be helping with the trades because I’ve been doing it for a year now and I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t think I would be interested in, but I’m truly loving carpentry. I’m really loving working with wood. So yes, we do still need tradesmen, because again, we are going into different areas where I’m asked to help support other students in different areas.

Patricia Robinson (15:34):

So I want to be able to build a team of tradesmen that will be able to accommodate our growth. And so yes, I do need tradesmen and I’m getting tired, so I’m feeling strict, but I’m enjoying it because I’m seeing it making a difference. And I know that it’s going to make a difference and I want to change the story, the narrative that trades is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of career choices. It is not, it’s a thriving industry and not only that, it’s a skill set that will never go away. You will always be able to use it. And you will always be employed whether you’re self-employed or you go work with someone. So it is definitely something that we want to start talking to our kids more about in the schools and less about nothing wrong with a four year college degree, but everybody is not cut out for that. And everybody is not interested in that. And not only that the trades provides you with debt-free, if you choose to,

Chris Martin (16:35):

Well, it sounds like you have an awesome thing. I’ve yet to come to one of your sessions or meet some students. And that’s one of my 2020 goals to do that, to get more involved and help you out as needed. But for others that are listening if they feel inclined to help out or get in touch or to learn more about the program, is there a good contact information we could share?

Patricia Robinson (16:57):

Oh yeah. Yes. They can contact me on my website, which is www.evolvetraininganddevelopment.com. They also can reach out to me on Facebook, it’s under evolve, training and development, or my personal link, which is Patricia Robinson. My email address is Tris Robinson10@gmail.com. That’s Trish, T R I S H Robinson ten@gmail.com. And also my they can reach me at the office, which is (717) 608-2315.

Chris Martin (17:39):

Awesome. And we’ll make sure to get that information out as well as we promote this podcast. And you can tell you’ve done that before. You’ve got that down. Pretty good.

Patricia Robinson (17:51):

I’ve been speaking frequently lately. So yes, I’ve got it down. I mean, I can talk about it as much as I can and get it out as much as I can, but be able to effectively do it is important. So thank you for this opportunity to allow me on to share about the training program and what evolve is doing and how we are evolving in the community. I think it’s so important to have the opportunity. And so I appreciate you having me on today.

Jon O’Brien (18:19):

I’m glad we could do it. And maybe we could check back every few months and maybe talk to you and a student and then get their feedback.

Patricia Robinson (18:26):

That’d be great. That’d be awesome. Yes, that would be great. That would be great.

Chris Martin (18:30):

Well, Patricia, thank you for your time today. It has been very, very helpful and very insightful. And as your company evolves, no pun intended, I’m sure they’ll keep growing and doing all the things that you’re helping with young, young people learn our industry.

Patricia Robinson (18:50):

You’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Keep up the great work. Thank you, Chris. And same to you, Jon.