Construction projects across the country are continuing to expand and diversify. Fortunately for Teamster members, the union conducts regular trainings and apprenticeship programs which prepare members for these projects.
A group of local unions, through Joint Council 42 in Southern California, have established the Construction Teamsters Training and Upgrading Fund. At their training facility in Fontana, Calif., existing members are re-trained on CDLs, pre-trip and on-the-job skills.
“We have 15-20 pieces of equipment that trainees can use,” said Andy Nichols, the director of the facility. “Due to being in California, we can operate training year-round. We’ve just begun a new class for upgrading the skills of current members which generally takes five to eight weeks to complete.”
Joint Council 42 has also established the Construction Teamsters Apprenticeship Program for Southern California. This program is certified by the state of California, the Department of Labor and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Applicants for the apprenticeship program must pass a written and oral exam before being accepted into the training facility. In addition to providing training to Teamster members looking for new jobs, the training center also trains recent veterans—and the compliments pour in from employers about their diligent work ethic.
“We have placed about 35 military veterans into construction apprenticeships so far this year,” said John Davidson, the coordinator for Teamster apprentice programs in the area. “Additionally, we have referred another 10-15 people to other signatory employers such as Vulcan Materials, Northrup Grumman and Young’s Market.”
“Military veterans have learned how to listen, and that’s an important asset,” Nichols said. “We can tell that they want to learn and want to move forward in their careers.”
The apprenticeship program receives many applications from civilians, transitioning military and military veterans. The program attends many military and college job fairs, held on the different bases and colleges throughout Southern California.
Testing and interviews are conducted every few months at the Local 166 union hall in Bloomington, Calif.
New Projects: Solar Fields
One example of the new types of construction projects that Teamsters are being trained for are solar field projects. In a recent Teamster magazine story, the solar field project at Ivanpah was highlighted due to the variety of skills required to run the project and the success that members and veterans (who became members) have had finding work there.
In Barstow, Calif., a solar field project is under way in the Mojave desert employing several members of Local 166. Each Teamster working there has gone through specific training through the union.
The solar field at Barstow relies on corridors of curved mirrors to concentrate the sun’s heat onto a central pipe that is filled with a special type of oil. Once this oil reaches a certain temperature, it powers a turbine which creates electricity. This field alone will power 100,000 homes once it is up and running in 2014.
Jon Anton, who now works in the production end of the Barstow Solar project, had previously worked for Granite Construction, through the Teamsters Apprenticeship Program, driving a water truck.
“I went through the apprenticeship program and now I keep the production line here filled with mirrors,” Anton said. “These have all been Teamster jobs and being part of the apprenticeship program has meant that we look out for each other.”
Training and Placement
David Sitton, another Teamster, had been working in the industrial sheet metal industry but began looking for other jobs. He discovered the apprenticeship program through a friend and now runs a ready lift, supplying the construction site which parts and materials.
“Because of the apprenticeship program, I was able to earn a CDL,” Sitton said. “I wanted a job where I was driving, so this fits in well. It’s a new experience.”
Former Marine Ross Bowlin is now a foreman at the Barstow project with 14 employees under him.
“My military training and discipline helped me pick up the skill set needed for this job. I’m proud to be a Teamster member,” Bowlin said.
“The Southern California Apprenticeship Program is an essential component to helping our members remain employed in the industry and it’s a terrific organizing tool for workers who haven’t been Teamster members before, whether they’ve been working in a different industry or have been part of the military,” said Marion Davis, Director of the Teamsters Building Material and Construction Trade Division. “Our job is train workers to adapt to the skills necessary to work in today’s construction industry and place our members in jobs where their training will be rewarded and appreciated.”
For information on available training or apprenticeship programs in the construction industry, see the Construction Division page on the Teamster website, www.teamster.org, or apply online at www.ctapsc.org.