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.