I was fortunate enough to attend the Specialties of the Drywall Trade Instructor Seminar held from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 at the IUPAT facility in Baltimore. It was obvious that a lot of planning went into setting up this building, with classrooms on the upper level and a lower level that is wide open, allowing plenty of room for the attendees to hone their skills on miles of drywall. This program is held annually and offers union trainers the opportunity to be exposed to new products and systems. The curriculum is divided equally between classroom instruction and hands-on training. Representatives from each company attending this course were on hand to make sure these trainers had sufficient knowledge to go back to their locals and pass on what they had learned to their members.

During this weeklong course, 3M held a class on respiratory safety for finishers. Ames, Apla-Tech and Better-Than-Ever Tools held classes on how to utilize their finishing systems and Lafarge, NO-COAT and Grabber demonstrated their latest offerings. We got to rub elbows with finishers from as far away as Alaska, Vancouver, Nevada, Louisiana and California. The scope of work done by this diverse group runs the gamut from traditional finishing to faux finishes.

The following quote from the curriculum guide sums up the attitude I witnessed first-hand during the week:

“The Finishing Trades Institute Educational Program, which involves this series of instructional materials in conjunction with classroom or correspondence-type instruction and on-the-job training, is provided to help maintain a constant supply of qualified workers for the industry. Everyone who enters the trade makes a definite commitment to themselves as well as to the employer. This includes a commitment to work diligently, to learn new techniques as well as improve on those already learned, to maintain an attitude that promotes learning and to exercise a high degree of maturity in all matters related to the job. These instructional materials are provided as a supplement to the on-the-job training everyone receives while performing their job. Every journeyman and apprentice must seek to learn from any source at their disposal in a continuing effort to enhance and upgrade their skills. The industry is in a constant state of change: only through efficient and continued education will our trades remain state-of-the-art.”

This mission statement is in complete contrast to the mindset I have witnessed on many job sites and have written about (see “Are You Old School,” Walls & Ceilings, December 2006). I am encouraged to see this trend and applaud the efforts of people like Jeff Vaughn and Mike Metz, who are the driving force behind these classes. The message was loud and clear that the union leadership is totally committed to training their members on all methods of finishing. As the union marches boldly forth into the 21st century, they are equipping their workers with 21st-century skills.

In closing, I think we should all take a moment to thoughtfully consider the opening statement made by Mike Romano during his presentation:

“The history of revolutions, industrial or political, shows you can’t predict outcomes, or take measures to stop them. That’s a mistake the Luddites made when they tried destroying textile machinery in the late 18th century. The machines weren’t the revolution, they were just tools of change. The more important lesson is this: If the reasons for the revolution are real, it’s best to do the utmost to understand them so you can influence the direction of change and thereby profit from the outcome.”

Remember: You can’t fight progress, but you can profit from it!