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  • Ironworkers, Skilled Trades Provide World-Class Job Training
    Posted On: Jun 12, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, June 13, 2016

    Union apprenticeship programs provide job skills and safety training to workers in the building trades through a combination of on-the-job experience and classroom instruction.  Bill Hohlfeld is a retired member of the International Association of Ironworkers and a historian for the union.  As an adjunct who also taught other subjects at the college level, Hohlfeld says the union has an absolute world-class training program:

    [Bill Hohlfeld]: “I have no problem whatsoever saying that the level of commitment and resources that goes into the training materials and the quality that comes out of it is as good if not better than any community college I’ve ever seen…and I’m very, very sincere about that comment.  The human and financial resources they put into the training program to make sure people who graduate from an Ironworker apprenticeship program are extremely well-trained and are extremely adept at staying safe and healthy is second to absolutely no other training program in the world.  I don’t think anybody has any concept of what goes into it.  I really don’t.”

    When he was a member of Ironworkers Local 46-L in New York, Hohlfeld was an apprentice instructor in the union’s apprenticeship program.  Becoming a qualified instructor takes five years.  Every year instructors and apprentice coordinators from all over the country convene in Michigan for 40 hours of training…learning not just the technical subjects, but also education: 

    [Bill Hohlfeld]: “People from universities all across the country come out to show you the correct way to do presentations, the correct way to engage classes…basically education courses.  The whole program is a combination of 100 hours of professional development, and 100 hours of advanced technical training, so you not only know more about what you already know, but you know more about how to present that information.  Our instructors get college credit now toward a degree in vocational training when they go to Michigan every year.”

    Hohlfeld says one of the most useful courses in his professional development training was a course on teaching students with special needs.  Raised in a system where students were expected to sit quietly while the instructor lectures, anything other than that was taken as disrespect:

    [Bill Hohlfeld]: “I learned that there are different people who are acting out in different ways sometime…they’re not giving you disrespect.  To be able to recognize in a classroom situation somebody that might have had ADD or other learning disabilities…and I was taught that there are people that need to be in motion and that they actually learn better when they are physically active, and to stop taking that as an insult.  If the object of your game is to impart knowledge to them, then there are ways that you can vary your presentation methods so that you can capture them, as well.”


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