April 17, 2015
By Bill Hohlfeld
Tucked away on a quiet road in Orange County, New York is an old factory warehouse that, from the outside looks like just another industrial building. But the interior tells an entirely different story. There are 24,000 square feet of space, owned by Carpenters Local 279 and dedicated to the mission of Apprenticeship Training and Journeyman Upgrade for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters. And every foot of it is put to good use.
The Northeast Region takes in a huge expanse, everything from Montauk, L.I. to Canada with the exception of New York City. The facility in Orange County is one of four in the territory. The other three are located in Albany, Happauge, L.I. and Rochester. But for carpenters in the Hudson Valley and New Jersey, the training center at Rock Tavern is the place where Apprentices are trained, Journeymen come to upgrade their skills, and all the members come to obtain an ever growing number of certifications that the federal, state and municipal governments insist that workers carry, if they are to be employed on certain projects.
Regional Manager, William Banfield and Apprentice Coordinator, Dennis Yorke are undeniably proud of the training that takes place at their facility, and with good reason. All apprentices receive 160 hours a year of classroom instruction in addition to their daily OJT. Apprentices are scheduled to come in four times a year, for 40 hours of training. Bill and Dennis agree that this aids the process of absorbing and retaining the material. The union’s commitment to the importance of this process is evident by its policy of providing meals and lodging for an apprentice during those forty hour training periods, if the apprentice lives in excess of sixty miles from the center.
In addition, each apprentice is assigned a mentor, from a pool of Council Representatives. These mentors provide the follow-up that is often necessary with people who are new to the trades, or may just be experiencing some difficulty. A phone call to check in and find out if and where a new apprentice may be working contributes greatly to the success of the program. Even so, not everyone is guaranteed success.
Standards are set and must be met. There is a 68% graduation rate from the program.
Dennis, the program’s coordinator is clear: “ This type of work isn’t for everybody. If it’s not for you, there’s no shame in that. But, if you want to learn to be a skilled carpenter, this is the place to do it.”
The program is an inclusive one. With a nod to the maxim, “safety first,” the first year curriculum is comprised of OSHA 10 Fall Prevention, Aerial Lift Operation, Scaffold User and Confined Space Awareness certifications, just to name a few. There is also an extensive orientation to union history, practices and principles.
Second and third year apprentices continue to hone their skills in scaffold erection, framing and increased familiarity with a variety of power tools. They move on to installing acoustical ceilings, constructing soffits and fascias, installing doors and hardware and ICRA (Infection Control Risk Assessment Training). In fact, an entire wing of the training facility is set up as a simulated hospital ward, complete with nurse’s stations and “patients” in the beds. The reason so much attention is paid to this part of the training explains Bill Banfield, is that “the skill set needed to work in hospitals- cleanliness, attention to detail, and overall professionalism, are all highly transferable skills that will serve to make our carpenters successful in any setting.”
Finally, in the fourth year, training becomes more specialized with trim and millwork, solid surface (e,g. Corian) installation, and metal stud work. There are also courses in First Aid, CPR and AED. Upon graduation from the program, members are free to further their education by taking advantage of an articulation agreement with Alfred State College which grants 39 college credits applicable to an Associate’s Degree
in Construction Technology. Or as Journeymen they can just continue to come in to renew and upgrade their various certifications. These classes normally take place on Saturdays from 7 to 3:30.
Rounding out the permanent staff are full-time Instructor and Journeyman Carpenter, Jerry Czarnowski, who provides the bulk of the hands-on training, and Administrative Assistant, Gina Wiley who helps insure that the operation runs smoothly.
There are also a number of part-time instructors who lend their expertise as needed. All of them together are committed to maintaining a safe, well trained, and highly skilled workforce in New York’s Hudson Valley.