Steel Day Attracts Aspiring Glaziers
September 28, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji,

Steel Day attendees try their hands at welding.

Approximately 110 professionals and students attended the annual Steel Day on September 23 at the Iron Workers Local 5 Union Hall in Upper Marlboro, Md. The Ironworkers train people to install glass and curtainwall. Contract glaziers, such as TSI, Harmon Inc., Antamex and Permasteelisa, use graduates of the Iron Worker apprenticeship program, said Kenny Waugh, director of industry liaisons at the Ironworkers Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) and coordinator of the Steel Day event.

Nationally, 8,500 architects, engineers, contractors and students were expected to attend the 700 Steel Day events across the United States, Waugh said.

Steel Day is a hands-on, interactive day of learning about the steel industry, Waugh said. "We have an interactive tour for people to try tools," he said. "We have students here from Virginia Tech and Howard University building model bridges for the AISC/American Society of Civil Engineers Student Steel Bridge Competition Display. And we also have a presentation, The Structural Steel Supply Chain, by AISC."

"Other than classroom training, the Local 5 apprenticeship program has training trailers that can go to train groups on site," says Kenny Waugh.

The Local 5 trains people with high-school degrees to be ironworkers, said David McNair, apprenticeship director. The courses are college credited, and students graduate with 47 credits. "The National Labor College accepts those credits, and you could almost get a bachelor's degree," he said. "Students need to have a high-school degree with a 'C' average to attend classes."

The students don't have to pay for their courses, Waugh added. "We all give certain cents per hour to run this," he said. "We have 900 members and 110 apprentices." The teachers are paid and accredited. "We have 8-10 teachers, and they come here at night to teach," he said. "The students have to have 800 hours inside and 8,000 hours outside over the entire course of four years to graduate." About 75 percent to 80 percent of the students graduate, McNair added.

One semester is dedicated to curtainwalls, McNair said. "It's part of our core curriculum."

"In the Local 5 jurisdiction, ironworkers set more glass than glaziers," said Bill Moon, a retired ironworker who worked for Harmon for 10 years and taught the glass and glazing section for several years. "We set almost all the glass on curtainwalls, entrance ways and hand rails. Iron workers on trucks also repair commercial glass damages."

"We work hard to keep our wages up," says Dave McNair. "It's quickly becoming a nation of two jobs. We work to keep that to one job so we can have family time."

Alexei Ogai took the Local 5 4-year apprenticeship program and graduated in 2008. "I worked for CSI as a foreman for five years, and am now working as an independent contractor," he said. "It's a good program and gives you all the aspects of ironmanship and glazing. I'm doing a lot of glasswork, curtainwalls and window walls, and 95 percent of my business is glass-related.

"Glaziers' unions offer the same apprenticeship courses, but our course goes deeper," Ogai continued. "We learn everything from layout, welding, anchors, mullions, building the frame, hooking it up and setting the glass."

The IMPACT, the labor-management arm of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, host Steel Day, an annual event sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, its members and partners, and held at local venues throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.