Upcoming Large Projects in Atlanta Create Opportunities for Influx of Qualified Apprentices

The Atlanta area is in the middle of a workforce drought. With major construction projects—such as the new Atlanta Falcons stadium—on the horizon, the renovation of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Baxter Chemical and the Vogtle electric generating plant—Sheet Metal Workers Local 85 is seeking qualified apprentices.

“We want somebody who is looking for a career, not a job,” said Alan Still, apprentice coordinator at Local 85’s training center. “We want those who want to get in there and go to work. They’re not afraid of hard work.”

The International Training Institute, the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, provides curriculum for four- or five-year programs at 153 training centers across the country. Apprentices accepted into the program graduate with zero tuition debt.

The jobs highest in demand are welders and HVAC fabricators and installers. Once buildings are complete, TAB specialists will be needed to get the HVAC systems up and running at efficient and energy-saving levels.

Applicants must have a high school diploma, or equivalent, and pass an entrance exam. For some of the federally-funded job sites, such as Vogtle, apprentices will be required to go through a federal background check before being permitted to work.

“We want top-notch people,” Still said. “Our industry can’t afford to take just anybody. We need someone who is going to produce.”

As a result of the influx of work scheduled to hit the Atlanta area in the next year or so, Local 85 is adding an apprenticeship class to the 2014 roster in addition to the two previously scheduled and is also recruiting qualified, experienced applicants.

“When I joined the apprenticeship, I looked at it as a great opportunity. I did the best job I could and because of that, I’m where I am today,” Still said. “We need applicants like that.”

Currently, approximately 70 applicants are sought to fill the August apprenticeship class. In addition to the 44 students who started the program in August 2013, another class of 22 apprentices began training as part of a second class in February. To plan for the future work at the Vogtle project, Local 85 also has leased a 5,200-square-foot building near the job site in Augusta, Georgia. The building will house a welding school and fabrication and lagging shop. Apprentices from Augusta also will be sought to help meet the job demand in that area.