Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Spotlight: Sheet Metal Technician
Most of us rarely think about the complex network of ducts that transport air and water through and around the buildings we live, work, and play in, but these invisible arteries and their components are critical to the safety and operation of any structure, and the health and comfort of occupants.
In Northern Nevada, thousands of these networks have been designed, fabricated, assembled, installed, and, when necessary, repaired, by sheet metal technicians from the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 26, many of whom were trained in the union’s state-of-the-art, high-tech apprenticeship program—a four-year, earn-while-you-learn program that combines paid classroom and on-the-job training.
“Of all the trades, we’re the only ones that both designs and builds what we install,” says Josh Morrow, apprenticeship coordinator at the Local 26. “And of course, we’re the best.”
Morrow says the first three years of the four-year program are spent learning the general principles and craft of the sheet metal trade, including measuring, designing, fabricating, installing, and repairing everything from heating, air conditioning, and exhaust systems to metal roofing, siding, gutters, drainage systems, stainless steel equipment in commercial kitchens, and beyond. Throughout the program, apprentices learn to use high-tech tools and equipment like plasma cutters, programmable brakes, rolls, and sheers, and the latest welding techniques and equipment.
In their 4th year, apprentices can choose one of five tracks: Building Trades Sheet Metal Installer
The largest track in the program, the building trades sheet metal installer continues on as a generalist in the design-build-installation work of the first three years of the program. Morrow says this is currently the industry’s highest need.
HVAC Service Technician
This track specializes in servicing residential and commercial HVAC systems. These techs repair ductwork and systems, change filters, swap out units, install new and energy-efficient systems, and consult with customers.
Detailing (BIM—Building Information Modeling)
This design-focused track works in the office vs. the field, using AutoCAD, Bluebeam, and other computer-aided design programs. Detailers designs ductwork and systems, coordinating with other trades working on project blueprints and architectural drawings.
TAB (Test, Adjust, and Balance) Technician
After the HVAC system is complete on a construction project, TAB technicians go in and adjust, monitor, and record flow rates for air, water, and electricity within the system. These techs make sure all systems and units are operating as the engineer intended, and with high efficiency.
Welders and industrial techs work in the shop or out in the field working with heavy-gauge sheet metal—welding, brazing, soldering, cutting, and creating brackets and seams.
Wages for sheet metal apprentices begin at $14.97/hour plus benefits, and by the end of the four-year program, sheet metal apprentices are earning $33.27/hour as they graduate into journeymen/women. Apprentices receive a full benefits package after 90 days, which includes medical, dental, and vision coverage, paid time off, a generous retirement plan, and earning free college credits at a local accredited community college as they move through the apprenticeship program. They also have access to a tuition reimbursement program throughout their career.
“One of the ways I think we really stand out is our comprehensive benefits program,” says Morrow. Our health plan covers spouses and kids at no extra cost, and our retirement plan lets you retire after 25 years of service—as early as 55 years old—at 100% benefit, no penalty. That’s pretty rare.”
The apprenticeship program expects to take on 20-25 new apprentices this fall to keep up with steady local demand.
How to apply:
Applications for the Northern Nevada sheet metal apprenticeship program at Local 26 are accepted year-round. Contact Josh Morrow, apprenticeship coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers Local 26, at 775-331-6393, or stop by the SMART training center at 1237 Gator Way, Sparks, NV 89432 for an application. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license, and have completed a high school diploma/GED.
The Sheet Metal Workers Local 26 is an equal-opportunity employer and its opportunities are available to all who meet the minimum requirements, regardless of age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or nationality.