June 2015

Rebar Training

The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) forecasts rebar usage in the U.S. to ramp up from current levels by 2.6 million tons by the end of 2019. This means the industry will need a net increase of 3,250 rodbusters per year to be able to man all of this work, and Canada is expected to have proportionately similar growth in the rebar industry. The question is, where will all of these rodbusters come from, and who will place all of this additional reinforcing steel? Whoever has trained workers ready to go, that’s who! The Iron Workers have an opportunity to man many of these jobs, but we need to begin preparing now. We need to start recruiting and training the next generation of reinforcing ironworkers and taking back our industry.

With man-hours and general membership increasing across North America and training centers seeing an up rise in apprentice numbers, it’s important to look at the type of training our newer members receive in order to get them ready to work in any aspect of our trade. Our training coordinators and instructors do a great job in the classroom, but the meat and potatoes of any training class is getting your hands dirty during the hands-on and/or shop exercises. When I was coordinator, I could take a new group of applicants and schedule them for orientation and for the most part groom them for their first dispatch. If the first job for an individual was in the structural field the likelihood of retention or success in the trade is fairly high. Being from a mixed local, the challenge was in training a new member to be successful in the rebar industry. The hardest task I faced as apprentice coordinator was recruiting individuals to work long-term in the reinforcing field, placing and tying rebar as a career. It’s no secret that rodmen are the hardest working members in the building trades and it takes a unique breed to do this line of work year after year! 

Our local union training centers must be proactive in preparing to take advantage of this rare opportunity. Recruiting new apprentices to work in the reinforcing industry is essential. Some training centers use pre-employment programs, special orientations, or specialty programs to secure the dedicated workforce to ensure we can meet industry needs for years to come. We must bring in enough new members to not only meet the needs of the growing industry, but also to replace those lost through attrition.

Owners and contractors are realizing the value of, and demanding, a trained, safe, and skilled worker. That is what they want! Whoever can meet these demands will get the call to man the jobs. Training for these new workers is the key to our success. It goes without saying that we must teach these new members everything about properly and efficiently placing rebar and make them the most productive rodbusters in the world. In addition to that we are finding that industry wants more. Owners and contractors are demanding rigging and signaling qualifications, fall protection, TWIC cards, BasicPlus orientation training, OSHA 30, post tensioning certification, foreman training and more. We have the training network to meet this demand, now is the time to use it.