Theory meets practice in CTCNC programs
"A squared plus B squared equals C squared," says apprentice Bill Berenson, Local 1789, looking up from his winding stair project.
Theory, say hello to practice.
"There’s all kinds of complex stuff, tricky cuts, getting the right elevation," says Berenson’s instructor Mark Carpenter, Local 701. "This is where the math we work on and the practice come together."
That brief exchange sums up the whole approach of the Carpenters Training Committee for Northern California (CTCNC) in every program—from basic carpentry to piledriving, insulation, drywall, floor installation and millwright training—at every one of its four state-of-the-art facilities. From foundations and floors to bridge building, "we’re all about providing the industry with people who can understand what needs to be done, and do it," says Jim McNamee, Director of Training Services.
Russell Allen teaches ceilings. Today, he’s working with apprentices Andrew Martin, Local 46, and Andrew Aguilar, Local 713, and Blair Teichman, Local 751, on an Alcan system, a low-maintenance system popular in airport and transit terminals and for outdoor use.
"They learn how to work with metal, for sure," Allen says. "But maybe it’s more important that they also learn how to think and how to innovate. Not every situation is the same, you’ve got to know the basics—and then you’ve got to use your imagination."
District Coordinator Mike White points out that "even in hard times, it still works. They’re going to need quality people when the economy bounces back. Our students will be here when the work picks up. They’re going to be ready."
Apprentices most often come to the program thorough a nine-week pre-apprenticeship program or "boot camp," where they learn some basic math and carpentry skills, safety and first aid, the union structure, benefits, and personal finance and work skills. Others come through the Helmets to Hard Hats program, which gives vets a leg up in their effort to restart their lives. And finally, some apprentices come through various community outreach programs.
"However they come in," McNamee says, "we build solid construction workers who are prepared to make a career out of it, who understand the business and want to provide good value in exchange."
From boot camp, it’s not a long road to being a leader in the industry. "We teach everything from first aid to superintendent training and total stations class," says Paula Resa, Pre-Apprenticeship Manager. "People can take it as far as they want."
And some of the future leaders in the construction industry are already at the CTCNC facilities.
"My work needs to create revenue for the contractor," says journeyman Miguel Lopez, Local 22. "I’m learning to think about this business as a whole, to think like a contractor, and to understand how it works." Lopez is planning to go for his contractor’s license as soon as possible.
It’s a lifelong learning process. "When they journey out, I tell them to come back for upgrades," says Pleasanton coordinator Raul Poblete, Local 2236, as he describes the CTCNC’s elaborate programs for experienced carpenters. "Most of us learn over the years to do one thing well. Nothing wrong with that. But the industry changes, and CTCNC provides the opportunity to learn the new technology and skills as well. This is a very competitive industry, and if you want a real career, you’ve got to keep up."