Journal: Issue 4 - 2006
The popular business expression “competitive advantage” has been applied to everything from companies to countries, but at BAC it really begins with the individual. A member’s ability to gain and apply knowledge throughout his or her career offers the ultimate competitive advantage for craftworkers, employers, and ultimately, the union masonry industry.
As the construction industry grows more demanding and competitive each year, particularly with competing materials and manpower concerns, BAC’s commitment to lifelong learning has created a sizeable portfolio of opportunities available to members through IMI, in conjunction with Local Union.
Training begins with apprentices before they even step onto a jobsite. Through pre-job apprentice programs offered throughout the BAC/IMI training network and the National Training Center in Maryland. They also learn how to be good employees. “Now, we have the instructor telling them what’s expected of them, and when they go on the jobsite, they’re ready,” says Local 1 New York President Sid Lanzafame. It also lets future craftworkers experience the profession and decide if they made the right choice.
Once on the jobsite, BAC apprentices and journey-level workers alike can take advantage of an array of career-enhancing training.
Basic IMI journey-level upgrade classes like welding and blueprint reading help BAC members qualify for jobs. “A lot of them come up and say, ‘Thanks. I can now hold onto my job,’” says Lanzafame. “There’s nothing [the IMI training center] can’t teach or produce for us in terms of quality in our members.” He adds that IMI upgrade training is also helpful in organizing. “Although they have some knowledge of the industry, they need upgrading. It’s all happening through IMI. I really don’t know how we could survive without it.”
IMI’s Flashing Upgrade program shows BAC members both correct installation techniques and how to identify failures caused by incorrect detailing of flashing. IMI also offers flashing and detailing seminars to designers and construction managers, who then recognize the superior work of BAC members and contractors.
OSHA training is always in demand by owners. Local 4 Indiana/Kentucky even sends Local Field Representatives and instructors to IMI OSHA 502 “refresher” courses for trainers, so they are prepared at all times.
“Safety awareness also helps contractors lower insurance costs by minimizing accidents and injuries,” says IMI National Training Director Steve Martini.
In addition to cross training opportunities in all BAC crafts, IMI training programs are flexible to adapt to changing industry and contractor needs.
Apprentices in New Jersey, for example, spend an additional two weeks at the National Training Center for concrete training, which makes them more marketable to prospective union contractors.
In New York City, where vapor barriers are catching on, IMI brought in BAC instructors for special “train the trainer” sessions. “Now, where would we be if IMI didn’t have this school?” asks Lanzafame. “We’re bringing in thousands of hours right now [because of the training].”
In larger cities like Philadelphia, where restoration is big, contractors appreciate specialized training that helps them expand. IMI “shows them all the different processes and training that they may not have on hand,” says Local 1 Pennsylvania/Delaware President John Phillips. “We can call IMI and get that kind of training for them.”
A trend toward specialized training credentials in new materials, methods, and standards is also making BAC members more marketable.
One of the fastest-growing trends is for certified grout and reinforced masonry installers. In Pittsburgh, where inspectors were going onto jobsites and X-raying walls, contractors knew they needed help fast. IMI offered a special grout program to an overflow crowd, including one contractor who sent 50 foremen. “That had a major impact, and the contractors really liked it,” says Local 9 Pennsylvania President Bucky Donkin. “My phone was ringing off the hook.” In Michigan, contractors are “bringing the entire company in,” and even general contractors are stepping up, says Local 1 Michigan President Ray Chapman. “They know the value of it.”
An additional level of quality control for all IMI training programs is the Instructor Certification Program, where BAC and IMI instructors keep up on latest trends, polish their teaching skills, and are themselves certified after completing a rigorous curriculum.
IMI’s flexible training approach helps BAC stay ahead of product trends, and capture new work for BAC members. “Whenever there’s a change in this market today, we always know that IMI is at the forefront,” says Local 5 Pennsylvania President Lester Kauffman, III. “With any new material that comes into our market, if we don’t learn about that material and try to certify our installers we’re going to lose that section of the market, and it’s tough to get anything back.”
As new and improved materials are sold to our customers, “our employers and craftworkers have to learn to install them, to increase our opportunities,” says Martini.
With autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) for example, BAC bricklayers and plasterers from all over come to the National Training Center for classes in AAC block and coatings. IMI also offers it in other centers such as Chicago, where AAC and grout certification are part of the curriculum for 2nd year apprentices.
Foremen, Supervisors, and Beyond
One of the most popular opportunities available to members to advance their careers is IMI’s Supervisor Certification Program (SCP). This intensive training at both the Foreman and Superintendent levels helps to create effective, knowledgeable supervisors who burnish the image of union masonry. “Our contractors feel that our foremen are the best,” says Northern Ohio Administrative District Council Director Bob Fozio. Along with helping to identify good supervisory candidates, SCP also helps recruit others to BAC.
The next step after supervisor training is Contractor College, which covers project management, business management, human resources, professional practice, and technical electives, all of which make BAC contractors more professional and competitive in the marketplace.
From pre-job to supervisor classes, IMI training programs are highly flexible so they can be delivered anywhere across the country, and continuously updated. The programs foster loyalty among members and contractors to BAC and offer a “seal of approval” wherever BAC is involved.
“We believe that lifelong learning is the best way to serve all of our members, and IMI is the perfect way to do that,” says BAC President and IMI Co-Chair John J. Flynn.