School to Apprenticeship Program offers Max Hayes students a path to become Union Journeymen Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers signing
PHOTO BY CHUCK HOVEN Tuesday, January 23, 2018; Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 33 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, 12525 Corporate Drive: Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon, Co-Chair of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center’s Apprenticeship Committee John E. Sickle Jr., Max Hayes High School Construction Curriculum Specialist John Nesta, and Co-Chair of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center’s Apprenticeship Committee Kevin Tolley sign a School to Apprenticeship Agreement. Max Hayes High School Construction Program 11th Grade Students Matthew Gonzalez, Austin Williams and Kristina Martinez witness the historic signing.

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, February 2018)        On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District CMSD) signed an agreement with the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 33 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center (JATC) that will allow students in the Construction Program at Max Hayes High School a direct path into the Sheet Metal Workers’ Apprenticeship Program when they graduate from high school.

CMSD CEO Eric Gordon and Max Hayes Construction Curriculum Specialist John Nesta joined with Co-Chairs of the JATC Apprenticeship Committee John E. Sickle Jr. and Kevin Tolley in signing the agreement. The agreement represents the first agreement between the CMSD and a trade union in Cleveland for a school to apprenticeship program.

Max Hayes Construction Curriculum Specialist John Nesta, who was instrumental in securing the agreement, is a retired sheet metal worker. Nesta once taught classes at the Sheet Metal Workers’ JATC.

The agreement will allow qualified graduating students to enter directly into the five year apprenticeship training program at the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center at 12525 Corporate Drive in Parma, Ohio. According to details of the agreement released by CMSD Media Department, “To qualify, students must be at least 17 years old and graduate from Max Hayes with a minimum 3.0 average in their building construction or welding courses and have an overall average of at least 2.5. They also must maintain 95 percent attendance in high school, two points above the state standard.”  Students must also pass a physical.

Students in the apprenticeship program will go through the training program tuition free. Each student receives their own laptop computer.  Their only costs will be union dues. The agreement will allow them to begin earning $12.50 per hour plus benefits in the summer between their junior and senior years in high school, according to the CMSD media department press release. The press release also indicates that once the apprentices complete the five year program, they will become union journeymen. The current wage for journeymen sheet metal workers is $36.91 per hour.

Co-Chair of the JATC Apprenticeship Committee John Sickle Jr. said the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center is a partnership between industry and the union – the word “joint” in the title means labor and management combined. Sickle, President of Duct Fabricators, says he is a representative of industry on the Apprenticeship Committee.

JATC Apprenticeship Committee Co-Chair Kevin Tolley, says he represents Local 33 of the International Association of Sheet Metal Workers Local 33.

The two co-chairs explained that industry and the union get together to sign a contract determining wages for journeymen. The apprenticeship wages are based on a percentage of the journeyman wage and apprenticeship wages currently start at over $14 per hour.

In addition to earning wages while going through the apprenticeship program, apprentices will have their tuition covered for over 140 hours of classroom work each year. Sickle and Tolley explained that after 90 days, the apprentices will also qualify for health care benefits and a pension.

Tolley says, an agreement between JATC and Cuyahoga Community College allows apprentices to earn credits toward an applied science major in Sheet Metal. When apprentices complete the five year program, they will have accumulated between 30 and 36 credit hours – all tuition free — that can be used toward a four year degree if they decide to go to college, said Tolley.

Sickle and Tolley says the JATC has about 10 to 25 apprentices a year enter its program. If they get two or three apprentices a year from the Max Hayes Construction Program they said, “that will be a huge win for us.”

Prior to the signing of the agreement, those present for the signing ceremony received a tour of the state of the art training facility. The tour included viewing the individual welding booths for students; drafting tables; a computer room; a Fire Light Safety Board training area; Computer Numerical Control (CNC) table; a Plasma Cutting Table; examples of duct work and architectural sheet metal; a Testing and Balancing Lab for HVAC systems; and a Variable Refrigerant Flow Lab with a top of the line training area.

Max Hayes Juniors, Austin Williams, Khristina Martinez and Matthew Gonzalez, participated in the tour along with Max Hayes Principal Chris Scarcella. Among those on the tour and witnessing the signing were Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, Cleveland Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, and John Sindy Chief Executive Officer of the Sheet Metal Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA).

A description of the multi-faceted work performed by Sheet Metal Workers, provided by the Sheet Metal Workers JATC, says:

Sheet Metal Workers work with ferrous (steel), non-ferrous (aluminum, copper) and alternative materials (plastics, fiberglass, phenolic board). They fabricate, install, maintain and service components in Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. This includes air handling equipment, ductwork, duct system components and the drawings for shop fabrication and field installation. They also perform the Testing Adjusting and Balancing (TAB) of the complete HVAC system. Sheet Metal Workers fabricate, install, maintain and service components used in industrial applications. This includes dust and fume collection systems, machine guards and spray booths and ovens. Sheet Metal Workers also fabricate, install and maintain components used in Architectural applications. This includes metal roofing, siding, decking, coping, flashing and decorative materials.

Max Hayes Construction Program, from which the apprentices will be drawn, is taught by instructors Jim MacDowell and Jim Mulgrew. The program has about 25 students in each grade, and provides instruction to juniors and seniors.

At the Cleveland Board of Education Meeting following the signing of the contract, CMSD CEO Eric Gordon announced the agreement to the Board of Education. Gordon noted that Don and Norma Freeman, who began advocacy for such a school to apprenticeship program over 16 years ago, had been notified of the agreement. Don and Norma Freeman now serve on the Advisory Committee for the Max Hayes Construction Program.

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