Everything your OPCMIA does — provide work opportunities with good wages and benefits, protect your health and safety, increase our market share, and supply the skilled plasterers and cement masons our industry needs — is underpinned by training. Simply put, it’s the foundation for your union and your well-being.
That’s why I’ve made strengthening the OPCMIA International Training Fund (ITF) and the National Plastering Industry’s Joint Apprenticeship Trust Fund (NPIJATF) a top priority.
As you probably know, the ITF operates OPCMIA’s world class apprenticeship and mid-career upgrading programs, while the NPIJATF runs the OPCMIA’s Job Corps program, a unique, government-funded pre-apprenticeship initiative for at-risk youth.
These programs serve multiple purposes, all of them essential to our great union.
First and foremost, they guarantee that OPCMIA members are the most skilled, productive, safest construction craftspeople in the world. Members who graduate from our apprenticeship program have fully mastered the craft of plastering or cement masonry and their expertise ensures that all the projects they work on will be built to the highest standards.
Our upgrading programs are equally important. The technological revolution has not bypassed construction and our members must stay on the cutting edge. Whether it’s artificial intelligence and automation or new forms of concrete that combine strength and flexibility, the ITF ensures that members are a step ahead of the change curve.
Second, training is our best organizing tool. Contractors know that when they hire OPCMIA, they’re getting apprentices and journeypeople who will build on budget and on time. Their projects will be safe, strong, durable and eye-catching, standing heads and tails above the competition. The value OPCMIA adds to contractors’ success is immense and training is the number one reason why.
Third, training is marketing. It does more to increase our market share — and that of our contractors — than any other attribute. Architects, developers and end-users can count on the ability of OPCMIA members to turn their visions into reality, exactly as they see it.
Fourth, training saves lives in a dangerous profession. Safety and health are woven into the DNA of everything we do, in the Job Corps, apprentice programs and other ITF training alike.
Fifth, training is the key to ensuring that we supply the skilled plasterers and cement masons of the future. In the 21st Century, there are very few opportunities for young people to pursue a fulfilling career and entry into the middle class that don’t require four years of college and going tens of thousands of dollars in debt. We are the exception. Young people get a great education free of charge, and it leads directly to good-paying jobs that can last until retirement.
Job Corps is especially valuable in this regard, because it opens new doors of opportunity to highschool students in underprivileged communities. It’s a free, residential pre-apprenticeship program, in which young men and women live at one of OPCMIA’s 35 Job Corps centers, gaining skills both in the classroom and through hands-on experience. They also receive academic training to help them complete high school or obtain a GED Certificate. Graduates have a 97 percent job placement rate and are ideally-positioned to enter the OPCMIA Apprenticeship Program.
Job Corps works brilliantly for enrollees who complete the program successfully, and it helps our union and our contractors by both increasing and diversifying our membership.
Similarly, we continue to support Helmets to Hardhats because it empowers veterans to pursue careers in our crafts. It’s a great way for our brave servicemen and servicewomen to transition to civilian life, and it aids our ability to meet the demand for plasterers and cement masons.
That’s why we are stepping up our outreach to potential new members — and to contractors and the broader construction community — through the ITF and Job Corps, with redesigned, dynamic websites (www.opcmiatraining.org and www.opcmiajobcorps.org), new online ads, and other methods of communications. We’re continuing to strengthen our training staff and making the investments needed to ensure that the ITF and NPIJATF set the standard.
Just like you can’t have a strong building without a foundation, you can’t have a strong union without training. We’re committed to always being the best in the world at ensuring you are the most skilled craftspeople in the world.
Daniel E. Stepano