Last Friday I had the pleasure of touring the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia. Local 19, along with the Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity (SMCA) have partnered to train skilled sheet metal apprentices and journeypersons.
The tour was a great opportunity to see, first-hand, the kind of comprehensive training these workers are receiving. I had the opportunity to meet several of the trainees, get an overview of how the training process works and speak with several contractors and employers who utilize these trainees after they have completed all of the necessary requirements. I learned to find out that over 75,000 man-hours are devoted to training each year and that approximately 700 members pass through the training center in that time. Those statistics speak to the necessity of these programs in our educational system. In order for Pennsylvania, and the nation, to maintain a manufacturing base we need an educated workforce that cannot only compete with, but surpass the abilities of cheap labor that gives incentives to outsource jobs.
At the event, I was also able to learn more about Local 19 and the SMCA’s efforts to retrofit fume hoods in science laboratories to make them safer and more energy efficient. Aside from members of Local 19 and the SMCA, a number of attendees were from pharmaceutical, biotechnical and energy companies in southeastern Pennsylvania who hope to utilize this new technology.
Unfortunately, like the rest of our workforce, Local 19 has seen an increase in the number of its members that are unemployed. However, in this instance, the Union is proving the importance and ingenuity of an organized workforce by leading their own advances with this innovative technology that improves workplace safety, decreases energy consumption and creates good, sustainable jobs.