Justin Frye came to union construction work later than most people do. The 37-year-old father of two from the Hudson Valley town of Wappingers Falls joined Ironworkers Local 580’s apprentice program in 2014, through the Helmets 2 Hardhats program for military veterans.
The son of a union operating engineer, Frye served in the Marine Corps and then worked as a surveyor and project manager. Times got hard after the 2008-09 recession, so when his father-in-law, a Local 580 member, told him the union’s test for aspiring apprentices was open, he took it.
“From day one, I thought Justin would be a good fit for Local 580,” says Richard Falanca, the union’s director of education.
Local 580 specializes in ornamental and architectural metalwork. “I love it,” Frye says.
The first year of the program, he says, teaches the basics of “fine metalwork” and safety. In the second year, he learned stick welding and the more complex TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding. Stick welding is great for structural work, he explains, but the heat and the molten flux it throws off can tarnish or scorch the metal used in fine detail work, such as stainless-steel handrails.
In the third year, he learned how to read blueprints. He was also one of the three apprentices selected to join a one-week course for journeymen on how to use “total station” robotic surveying machines, such as the Hilti POS 180, which measures distances and then determines how they correspond to the blueprint to set the positions for things like fastening points on floors and ceilings. Once you enter the data from the project’s engineer, he says, “you can lay out an entire job with it.”
Since graduating from the apprenticeship program last September, Frye has become a foreman on the Moynihan Station project, ensuring that its canopy ceiling is built according to plan. “I’m in charge of all the layout,” he says.
“His personality, communications skills, and military experience have opened the door for him to succeed as an ornamental ironworker,” says Falanca. “I’m proud to say that Justin will have a bright long career ahead of him, and with talent like his, it makes our union and employers more marketable.”