First 15 students complete four-year apprenticeship program in sheet metal
On January 16, fourteen men and one woman were celebrated by their friends, families, instructors, and employers for becoming the first graduates of a four-year apprenticeship program offered by the Houston Area Mechanical Contractor Training Academy (HAMCTA). HAMCTA, also known as “the Academy”, came to exist through the vision, collaboration, and sacrifice of several mechanical contractors who found a creative way to develop the skilled workforce which is needed in their industry.
The idea for the Academy began a few years ago when several mechanical contractors in the Houston area were each experiencing the same frustration with finding skilled workers to hire. They wanted to establish a program which would provide training with certification and also allow the contractors who had provided the training to retain those workers after they became qualified. Richard Coogle of The Walsh & Albert Company told Jose Palacios, Work Force Development recruiter at MEMCO staffing company, that he had been trying to develop a program for his company, but that it was difficult to put together a training program all alone. He convinced several other mechanical contractors to work together to form the Academy which eventually rolled out in February 2010. Joel Eggebrecht of Polk Mechanical and Kelly Stavinoha, specialty project manager and eventual Vice President of HAMCTA were also integral in establishing the Academy.
At the graduation ceremony, Palacios said to the gathering:
“I want to talk about how difficult this was. There are 15 guys here tonight, but there are another 15 to 20 guys who did not finish the training. Some of them are your friends. We know that they have gone through a hard time, and so think about them, give them a call, tell them to come back to training – because this is necessary. The skills you have, the certifications you have, are very needed in this economy. You have the mechanical contractors here who are going to support you and continue to train you.… All of you guys have a great future, so keep at it.”
Earlier that day, James Carnes, Apprenticeship & Training Representative from the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration, delivered certificates for each of the 15 graduates (including one for a graduate who was unable to attend that evening) which recognized the completion of their apprenticeships. In a communication to the Academy members, he stated:
“I am congratulating every sponsor and apprentice. The milestone that we celebrate is a remarkable and significant accomplishment to the development of human capital in the skilled trades and the Sheet Metal and Mechanical Contacting Industries. In short, you made history. I have served in this position for over a decade, and no other organization has ever been configured to allow every participating employer as much freedom and flexibility in prescribing your apprenticeship program and yet remain cohesive. I have witnessed every employer represented here overcome obstacles and sacrifice time, money and effort. It is your steadfast commitment that makes you leaders in your industry.
“Thank you, Mr. Stavinoha – without [your] vision, hard work, initiative, and leadership we might not have realized this so soon. This is truly a success story. I look forward to seeing you all soon and thank you for your commitment to registered apprenticeship.”
Following the ceremony, I asked Kelly Stavinoha to tell me a little more about the Academy. He told me that HAMCTA is a non-profit organization. They pay six certified instructors, but generally try to keep the cost of running the Academy down. Originally they had planned to use TD Industries’ facility for the training, but just when they were ready to begin classes, Hurricane Ike came through Houston, they were literally “washed out”, and all of their priorities changed. He said:
“We had to write the bylaws to incorporate every company because everyone’s biggest problem was the fear of sending people to classes and investing money into their training only to have another company ‘steal’ those workers after they are trained. We all made commitments to each other not to steal each other’s employees.”
To be accepted into the HAMCTA apprenticeship program, a worker must work for one of the companies who sponsor the program. If a worker quits one of those companies and is then hired by another, the Academy steps in and verifies whether that first company had agreed to let that worker go. If that first company denies releasing the worker, that worker is then denied acceptance into the HAMCTA apprenticeship program. In this way, the sponsor companies feel safer about investing in the training of their workers through the Academy, because they are better able to retain those employees after they complete the training.
Companies participating in HAMCTA as members and supporters include:
- C-AIR-S Mechanical
- Comfort Systems USA
- Derryberry Mechanical
- Kilgore Industries
- Letsos Company
- Mason Road Sheet Metal
- Mesa Mechanical, Inc.
- MR Worx
- Polk Mechanical Company
- TD Industries
- Walsh & Albert Company
- Construction Force
- MEMCO Staffing
- Marek Brothers
The stated purpose of the Houston Area Mechanical Contractor Training Academy is to provide the sheet metal and pipefitting industry with workers who are well-trained and qualified for the job. Graduates become journeyworkers and are recognized and certified by the Department of Labor and NCCER. The Academy uses the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) curriculum for a four-year apprenticeship program. All students must complete over 600 hours of classroom studies and 8,000 hours of on-the-job learning in order to become registered journeyworkers. For more information, contact Jennifer Tremaine, director of HAMCTA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.