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Hands-on training provides competitive edge in sheet metal/HVAC industry

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People crowded around the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC) booth at the second annual Construction Expo, hungry for information about the organization and its apprenticeship programs.

For Don Dion, chair of the Sheet Metal/HVAC Committee at ABC, witnessing and talking to virtually hundreds of people at the April event who were eager to learn about the organization's Sheet Metal/HVAC Apprenticeship Program proved how vital the program is to San Diego's construction industry.

"From my perspective, employing ABC apprentices is a smart move," said Dion, project manager at R.J. Lanthier Co. Inc., a mechanical contracting company. "I know that the ABC apprentices at R.J. Lanthier are the best-trained workers we have."

Dion is a strong believer in the Sheet Metal/HVAC Apprenticeship Program, a state-approved apprenticeship program that provides on-the-job training, classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory training. Indentured apprentices work 40 hours a week and attend classroom sessions two nights a week to master both the technical and theoretical aspects of sheet metal work. When apprentices complete the four-year program, they are awarded a state of California Journeyman Certification.

R.J. Lanthier, which employs more than 50 people, puts a half-dozen or more apprentices through the sheet metal program every few years, Dion said.

"The program is a great opportunity for our sheet metal employees and provides state-of-the-art training," he said. "Without it, R.J. Lanthier Co. and other ABC members could not train employees and work competitively on prevailing wage rate job sites."

With the expansion of the ABC training facility in Poway, sheet metal apprentices can receive hands-on training on heating and air conditioning units, and on sheet metal fabrication equipment. There is also an area where field conditions can be simulated, and equipment, ductwork and associated electrical and piping can be installed.

"It's obvious why we hire ABC apprentices," Dion said. "The program is a great idea for all individuals thinking about going into construction. On-the-job training and combined with classroom instruction make for a well-rounded education."

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