When the UBC’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Council recently opened a new 40,000-square-foot training center, it capped a determined effort to refashion curriculum to help create highly skilled members who can help make contractors more productive.
The center in Upper Marlboro, Md., about 12 miles east of downtown Washington, D.C., offers a long list of facilities to teach
in-demand skills, including: a 9,000-square-foot open bay for training in scaffolding, rigging, and aerial lift; six specialized large rooms for instruction in concrete forms, trim and millwork, interior systems, pile driving and welding, basic general carpentry, floor covering, and trade show work; a computer lab; and three classrooms.
More impressive still, according to council officials, is the teaching that will go on there.
“Our new training space is there for one purpose: To support our curriculum,” said Thomas Barrett, director of the Mid-Atlantic Carpenters’ Training Centers.
The center, Barrett said, “is truly amazing, but it’s only a building—and only one part of what has been a four-year overhaul of the entire training program to respond to the needs of our contractors.
“Every one of our courses emphasizes productivity, quality, and responsibility.”
Along with investing in curriculum, the council’s training program is partnering with community colleges, public schools, and workforce development organizations to identify the best apprenticeship applicants, who are interviewed and tested before being admitted to the program.
“Our retention rate has risen from 20 percent in 2007 to 76 percent for first-year apprentices in 2010,” said Bill Halbert, executive secretary-treasurer for the Mid-Atlantic council. “Getting the right training to the right people keeps our contractors competitive—and that’s what gets work for our members.”
The new training center helped persuade at least two companies to become union signatories.
Dennis Meyers, manager of the council’s D.C.-area district, recently announced that “I’ve taken three contractors through our new center. Two were so impressed they have already signed up. And I’m very optimistic about the third. Through this center, we’re selling the advantages of going union.”
The center also serves as testament to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ commitment to serve its members and contractors into the foreseeable future.
“Other unions are hunkering down during the recession,” UBC General Secretary-Treasurer Andris Silins said at the dedication of the new training center. “But we are preparing for the future, like opening this center. News around the nation might be bad, but here there is a bright spot.”