July 30, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
The next time industry-leading tool manufacturer DeWALT rolls out a new line of skill saws and impact drivers they won’t have worry about carpenters liking them. That’s because the new tools will have been field-tested by union members enrolled in the NY District Council of Carpenters Labor Technical College’s apprentice program.
Trying out new tools is just one of the ways that the NY District Council of Carpenters is making sure that its eight different locals and 25,000 union members continuously stay on top of new developments in the marketplace.
The symbiotic relationship just makes good business sense all around.
“It helps with their marketing and it helps our training,” NY District Council of Carpenters Labor Technical College Director Elly Spicer said. “They get their newest tools into our apprentice’s hands, who then go out into the field and say, ‘Hey, you know that new saw that Dewalt has? It’s amazing!’ Pretty soon, there’s a buzz and their saws are being sold.”
Familiarizing union members with new products and procedures, in turn, helps workers retain their expert status – a crucial factor when it comes to hiring.
“We want our folks to be very comfortable and up to production level speeds with new tools in their hands,” Spicer said. “We want them spending their time getting use to new tools here, so that when they’re out there in the field, they’re making money.”
The NY District Council of Carpenters – which includes millwrights, dock builders, floor coverers, timbermen and cabinet makers – recently launched a new sanding and finishing program for flooring contractors after that task came under its umbrella following a new collective bargaining agreement. Concrete polishing is also another new addition to the college’s repertoire.
“We always try to stay abreast of any new technology that’s out there,” said Labor Technical College instructor Ron Zimmerman.
Thirty years ago, the use of heavy cage steel framing was rare. But today heavy steel framing has become common for exterior buildings. So, the Labor Technical College has begun teaching a journey-level course in that discipline as well.
“We’re now training our people with one more tool in their tool belt,” Spicer said.
Welders, meanwhile, will soon be another group that’s in great demand when the massive Tapan Zee Bridge replacement project finally gets under way. Pile driving demonstrations have already been conducted, and welding processes are now being determined. As a result, instructors at the Labor Technical College – with a combined total of almost 500 years of field experience – are busy making sure that their apprentices have all the skills necessary to get the job done right.
The Tapan Zee Bridge Replacement Project Labor Agreement actually calls for a higher ratio of apprentices to journeypersons than normally permitted in collective bargaining agreements.
“There are jobs coming down the pike, and we’re gearing up for them,” Spicer said. “We’re making sure our membership is ready. The last thing we want to have is our contractors looking for labor, and we cant’ provide it.”