President's Corner

 

October 2020 Critical Fights in Complex Times

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President’s Corner

Brothers and Sisters,

As I am writing this article, members and Americans everywhere are voting or preparing to vote in the General Election, and the outcomes are far from certain, so I will leave the dissection of election results and their effects upon Local 150 for the next edition of this column.

I want to focus this article on some good news that comes after months of hard work from the officers, Training Center leadership, and countless staff members from across the organization. The current public health decrees and executive orders that have come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a massive effect on our ability to gather members together, but since the start, we knew that we would have to find a way to hold a training season. No matter what is going on in the world, our members’ need to train will always be a top priority.

This month, we published the 2020-2021 Course Catalog online, and it is being printed for distribution to members as I write this. There are a few things that will be done differently than in years past, but the officers and I are proud of what the Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program will be able to offer this year. Until you receive a printed catalog in the mail, you can view it at www.local150.org.

As was the case for field training throughout the summer, members will all be required to wear a mask and have their temperatures screened before entering the building. Our cafeteria will remain closed for the time being, so members should bring whatever food or drinks they need. Members will also need to bring their own safety vests and hard hats.

Most importantly, if you are not feeling well, do not come to the Training Center, and cancel your class reservation if you have one. Our staff is going to great lengths to provide this training, and we need to protect their health and safety, along with the other members at the Training Center.

We will be offering some classes online this year. This is new, and we will ask members who enroll in an online class to take a brief prerequisite course to make sure that your computer and internet can connect. For members who cannot take online classes, the same classes will be available in-person.

Please take advantage of these training opportunities this season. In the coming year, it will be important for members to have a diverse skill set. We have already seen a five percent reduction in hours worked by our members this year and based on the lettings and plans that we’ve seen, that number could go up to 10 percent next year. Some of the inside trades are already over 30 percent unemployment, so while this is certainly not a great situation, we are in a strong position relative to trades who are less diverse in the type of work they perform.

Because we are expecting a dip in work levels for next year, we are not opening our apprenticeship program for new applications this fall. There are a few important reasons for this.

Last winter, we received thousands of applications for the apprenticeship program, but due to the closures that occurred in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were only able to evaluate a small handful of those members. We still have a lot of high-quality applicants from last year that deserve a look, and as the need for apprentices presents itself, we will process those applications. I know many members who had family members apply last year, and we promise to give every applicant a fair opportunity to get into the program. Last year’s applications have been extended for one year.

In addition, the cost to evaluate applicants is high, due to the amount of time and energy that our staff puts into grading applications and holding written and practical evaluations of top-scoring applicants.

During times when the work level is hard to predict, it would be reckless to introduce a group of apprentices that we could not reasonably assure would receive the needed amount of on-the-job training. We will continue to evaluate the work situation and the demand in various industries over the coming months and consider bringing previous applicants through evaluations as needed.

In the meantime, I urge you once again to be sure to look through the Training Center’s course catalog and make it a goal to learn a new piece of equipment or check out a new industry this season. We are truly lucky to have this level of training at our fingertips, and now more than ever, we must not let it go to waste. As always, spots in these classes are in extremely high demand, so if you reserve a spot in a class, please make sure you show up or cancel with enough time for another member to have an opportunity.

No matter what this pandemic throws at us, we will continue to train the best operating engineers anywhere in the world. I know that I speak for the officers and Training Center staff when I say that we are looking forward to seeing you down there this season.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.