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Demolition contractors know the importance of employing a skilled, knowledgeable and reliable workforce. Finding the right people for the job, however, can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. High turnover and low return on investment make building the right workforce a challenge for every employer.

Apprenticeship remains the most successful vehicle to providing a sustainable, skilled and renewable workforce. Whether a company is starting out, looking to expand or wants to remain a competitive force in a changing industry, a Department of Labor (DOL) approved apprenticeship program is vital to its success. That is why training remains one of the Laborers’ International Union of North America’s (LIUNA’s) oldest and most successful labor-management programs.

LIUNA Training & Education Fund (LIUNA Training) combines a world-class training network with a DOL-approved Construction Craft Laborer (CCL) apprenticeship program. This combination provides demolition contractors with a quality, profitable return on investment, making LIUNA Training’s CCL apprenticeship program a sound business decision, says LUINA.

FORGING RELATIONSHIPS

Ben Hayden, a co-owner of Hayden Wrecking in Washington Park, Illinois, has seen the positive results of working with apprentices from LIUNA Training’s CCL program.

To start, contractors should look “beyond the obvious things like reduced wages,” Hayden says. Through LIUNA’s CCL apprenticeship program “we’re getting someone who we know has the basics,” Hayden says, “making us a more cost-effective business from the start.”

Hayden sees the times changing within the demolition industry as a whole and at his business in particular, and apprentices will serve a key function in making the transition a smooth one.

“We’ve had workers with us for 30 to 40 years, but they are retiring and moving on. As a result we’re realizing we did a poor job of handing skills down to the younger guys. Now there’s a lack of skilled people to hand the jobs over to.” – Ben Hayden, Hayden Wrecking

“It’s not like it used to be,” Hayden says. “We’ve had workers with us for 30 to 40 years, but they are retiring and moving on. As a result we’re realizing we did a poor job of handing skills down to the younger guys. Now there’s a lack of skilled people to hand the jobs over to.” The biggest difficulty is finding young people to fill demolition jobs. Hayden says it has become an ongoing process of getting people trained.

This is where the relationship between LIUNA Training and a company like Hayden’s becomes so valuable. LIUNA Training’s CCL apprenticeship program is designed to benefit contractors in the short term as well as over the long haul.

For starters, when a contractor takes on an apprentice, there is the opportunity to develop a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with that worker. The contractor is bringing in an employee who knows the importance of safety on a job site and understands the value of hard work. And, as the apprentice gains job experience, there’s the added benefit of employing a worker who has a thorough understanding of the contractor’s expectations. As Hayden notes, “The more comfortable a worker gets, the longer they’re likely to stick around.”

John LeConche, LIUNA Training’s executive director, believes the CCL apprentice program is tailor-made to suit the needs of a demolition contractor.

“We don’t just draw names out of a hat, then send people on their way hoping for the best,” LeConche says. “CCL programs screen candidates, learning as much about each of them before accepting them into the program. In most cases our apprentices are also getting core skills training before heading to the job site.” But the biggest difference for demolition contractors, LeConche says, is the structure of the CCL apprenticeship program.

“Demolition and deconstruction is an area of concentration under LIUNA’s program. We want to be confident our partner contractors are getting a Craft Laborer who understands the demands of the demolition industry and is committed to building a career,” he says.

LIUNA Training screens its apprentice candidates, all of whom generally must meet the following criteria:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED;
  • have a valid driver’s license; and
  • pass testing to be deemed drug-free.

A LIUNA Training apprentice spends a minimum of 4,000 hours, or at least two years, receiving on-the-job learning, while also receiving 300 hours of related instruction. Below are some of the available training subjects for the core skills and the Demolition/Deconstruction concentration:

  • Identifying and Working Safely Around Environmental Hazards;
  • Erecting/Dismantling and Maintaining Scaffold;
  • Cutting and Burning;
  • Hoisting and Rigging;
  • Trenching and Excavating;
  • Aerial Lift Operation;
  • Site Prep/Cleanup and Security;
  • Identifying, Inspecting, Using and Maintaining All Tools, Especially Hand Tools, Electric Tools, Gas Tools And Pneumatic Tools;
  • Fire Watch;
  • Concrete Cutting And Sawing; and
  • Demolition Debris Handling and Management (Recycling, Reuse, Disposal).

Such a thorough training program pays off in ways that may not be readily recognized when viewing the bottom line. However, when a company can reduce its own time and effort to train new hires, yet knows those employees are being trained well, it can operate more efficiently and productively.

As Hayden puts it, there’s a minimum of safety concerns with an apprentice compared to someone coming in off the street. Because of the safety training apprentices receive, contractors have a lot less to worry about. This is important, Hayden says, because in an industry such as demolition, it’s easy to get hurt or to get other people hurt.

For partnered contractors, LIUNA Training’s CCL program is part of the labor-management partnership benefits. From recruitment, screening and intake, including meeting Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) requirements, to all required related training, LIUNA Training’s network of affiliated centers does the legwork for employers. “We are truly a one-stop shop for our contractors,” LeConche says. LIUNA Training’s local training centers also collect, maintain and report all DOL-required documentation and data, reducing a contractor’s administrative and staff-related expenses.

LIUNA Training’s CCL apprenticeship programs offer both general construction industry and demolition-specific safety training, including OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour programs. The goal is to reduce the risk of injury and lower workers’ compensation insurance rates.

POWER OF APPRENTICESHIP

As a partner contractor, LIUNA Training’s network programs not only include apprenticeship training, but also ongoing journey-worker skills, safety and supervisory training. So whether an apprentice is “learning while earning,” or a valued employee is making the jump to superintendent, LIUNA has the training covered. As part of the LIUNA Craft Laborer benefit package, training is paid for under the negotiated agreement.

The power of apprenticeship can bring an added level of stability not only to the job site, but to the industry as a whole. The contractor knows the graduating apprentice is someone who is seeking a career in construction and not looking for a quick paycheck. The result is a reduction in employee turnover and ultimately a more productive workforce.

“Once a contractor gets a taste of a successful apprenticeship program, the success rate grows exponentially,” LeConche says. “The more LIUNA CCL apprentices a contractor employs through the years, the easier it becomes to build a reliable, motivated workforce that also reflects the values of the company.”

A productive workforce is built on relationships—relationships born in labor-management cooperation and forged by providing a safe and skilled workforce. LIUNA Training’s CCL apprenticeship program has the power to benefit demolition contractors and their specialized needs.

“The apprenticeship program is looking to focus more on the demolition industry, which is perfect for us,” Hayden says. “It’s exactly what we need.”

This article was provided by LIUNA Training and Education Fund, the training arm for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), www.liunatraining.org.