Bakersfield, Calif., unions come together to educate tomorrow's work force

December 13, 2010

Members of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) in Bakersfield, Calif., are taking unprecedented measures to help ensure that when the economy rebounds, their work force is ready with the latest knowledge at their disposal.

Vern Shaffer, business representative and training coordinator for the training center at Sheet Metal Local 105 Bakersfield, is actively recruiting craftsmen and -women for the union's Green Building Pre-Apprenticeship Program and the Pink and Green Pre-Apprenticeship Program for women, with the next classes for both programs beginning Jan. 10. The three-week programs are meant to introduce pre-apprentices to the expectations of apprenticeship and the soft skills needed to prepare them for apprenticeships, not only in sheet metal, but other building trades.

Throughout the three weeks, representatives from Sheet Metal Local 105 Bakersfield, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 460, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 428 provide information on training, skills, and careers.

"Participants are open to go into any apprenticeship they choose," Shaffer said. "We've never had those three unions come together in their classifications before, with the idea of preparatory recruitment.

"We give the students enough to give them a taste of what direction they want to go," Shaffer said. With the addition of green building, the program also gives unemployed sheet metal workers the chance to brush up on their skills."

The programs are products of the Workforce Investment Act grant and a partnership of the Employers Training Resource, the Career Services Center, and the Kern Community College District in Bakersfield. The programs are set to conclude in June 2011. The goal is to graduate 120 students from the programs in 18 months and have them prepared to enter the work force.

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