June 2015

The Need to Recruit and Train

Both the United States and Canada have been faced with the need to recruit and train a whole new workforce in order to keep up with the demand for reinforcing ironworkers.

In 2014, we saw a demand for 41,000 full-time rodbusters. Based on a February 2015 Rebar Consumption and Forecast, we can see an average of 10.2 million tons of rebar each year through 2019, which would equate to an average of 51,000 full-time rodbusters needed to keep up with demand – that means we will need to find about 10,000 new ironworkers to tie bar. 

There are not enough reinforcing ironworkers who can meet the qualifications employers are searching for. Our signatory contractors are looking for the workers with TWIC cards, OSHA 10, OSHA 30, First Aid/CPR, BasicPlus, rigging and signalman, STS training, post-tensioning certifications, forklift and foreman training. The people holding these certifications will have more job opportunities and more prospects for advancement. The demand for reinforcing ironworkers will lead to a demand to increase wages in order to keep good employees and remain competitive with this shortage of skilled workers.

Local unions are realizing their only choice to man the jobs is to build a whole new workforce and reach out into the local communities to market the reinforcing ironworking trade. The overall goal is to find and train the men and women who want to gain a career in reinforcing ironwork, are physically capable, and show up with the right attitude on time and ready to work. As we continue to find young men and women who have the “90 percent want to,” we are better able to prepare them by restructuring our training and continuing to promote our Gladiator Trainings.

As we realize the importance of training, it’s clear teamwork and taking advantage of technological advancements will help us reach more areas and offer more opportunities to our workers. By introducing online distance learning programs and partnering with other apprenticeship training centers, we can engage a higher number of participants and maximize our exposure in the community. Our goal with distance learning initiatives are to offer more opportunities for young men and women in rural areas or in areas where a training facility is not readily accessible, and maintain the integrity and safety of our traditional apprenticeship programs while providing a modern alternative for study. Participants in these programs are monitored by online instructors and partnered with union contractors to gain on-the-job training. 

While training will play an integral part in our success, we must also unite and organize in order to triumph. Initiatives have been in place to strategize ways for local unions and the organizing team to work together seamlessly to recruit workers and help workers understand their rights and organize against their non-union employers. The organizing team, led by General Vice President Bernie Evers, has been an important advocate for reinforcing local unions and their signatory contractors to regain market share. 

Since the implementation of the Associate Member program and its subsequent expansion from the Houston area to the east and gulf coasts, we have seen an influx of associate members who are viable candidates interesting in obtaining reinforcing work. These workers are also searching for benefits, high wages and overall better treatment in the workplace. Databases are in effect to track the number of associate members and have the unions reach out to those interested in doing reinforcing work.

Anyone who joins as an associate member also receives valuable member benefits including health care and prescription drug discounts, access to discounted legal services and many other consumer benefits (like discounted AT&T service). They are treated to a year-round suite of communications: a welcome letter with an Iron Workers Associates member card, regular updates via phone, email and text message. These updates cover issues that matter to working people and include actions they can take to pass pro-worker legislation, elect pro-worker candidates or hold employers and local authorities accountable.

The Department of Reinforcing has also been closely monitoring President Barack Obama’s Executive Action of Immigration and how its implementation can help address the shortage of workers. With a need of 10,000 more new ironworkers, we can foresee an opportunity to train more workers to join the trade and increase union membership.

If we can continue to increase wages, promote union benefits and better the working conditions, we will be able to gain union loyalty and encourage solidarity. We have always strived to improve the lives of workers and build a strong relationship among our members, our signatory contractors and all our local unions. By collaborating we can better prepare ourselves to face the demands that are upon us.