Ten members of Associated Builders and Contractors’ National staff are spending the week taking part in The Zachry Craft Experience—a week-long training experience to give office professionals an idea of what it takes day in and day out to be a craft professional. The staff will be chronicling their time learning what our industry is really about. You can read a new entry here each day.
On Day 4 of the Zachry Craft Experience, four of the ABC national staff participants reflected on the time they’ve spent with the Zachry team and the hands-on skills they’re learning.
With pipefitting, millwright and rigging covered Wednesday, staff became more confident in their overall skills. During the classroom instruction for pipefitting with its heavy emphasis on math, the worst was feared but then quickly overcome when the hands-on learning began in the shop. The pipe threading machines proved to be easy to operate, and the bolt-up while requiring strength and time, simply mandated focus and an attention to detail for the numerous steps involved.
Staff volunteered to help each other throughout the week’s tasks making the entire experience that much more meaningful as a team building exercise as well as a way in which to learn more about the construction industry and its craft workforce. Cherry, Contreras and Barrow never left the floor during the hands-on learning exercises, offering assistance at every turn and encouraging their students to succeed. Thanks to the patience, dedication and teaching ability of the Zachry team, staff left the training center at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, blueprints in hand, team assignments made, and task sequencing outlined for their mock industrial project Thursday.
– Lisa Nardone, Editor, Construction Executive and Director of National Craft Championships
The one thing we, as non-craftspeople, fail to fully comprehend, are the incredible variance of weather conditions that the men and women who make up the construction workforce deal with every day. Even though we’re working in an enclosed structure, the heat and humidity are intense. Yet the work rarely stops—not for rain, not for humidity, not for cold—the craftsmen and women of our industry continue to build our country.
From the technical side, we experienced both pipefitting (“pipe-fighting”, as one of our instructors wisecracked) and millwright work today. You begin to understand the incredible accuracy of both trades when practicing them—pipefitters need to two-hole flanges to make sure the pipes are square, otherwise the flanges won’t connect and the entire pipe and flange system needs to be reworked. Millwrights—a trade which, admittedly, I didn’t have the best knowledge of going into this, go even further in dealing with measurements down to thousandths of an inch. These micro-adjustments and steady hands are a requirement—hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and millions in plant revenue are at stake for even the most miniscule of misalignments. These men and women must have both incredible patience and knowledge to do their jobs.
As the week nears an end, I’ve been struck by one thing I hadn’t really focused on before. All of us in the class graduated from college and have our degrees; yet, in many cases, our knowledge base pales in comparison to many of our craftsmen and women.
Construction is unfairly stereotyped as an industry full of the uneducated, the people who couldn’t handle college. Yet, how many of us can calculate in our heads in the span of seconds, trigonometry formulas to connect a pipe at a 46 degree angle to another pipe 30, 40 or 50 feet away? How many college graduates make six figures right out of school, like a good pipefitter or welder does?
The truth is, for many people—myself included—who chose college, do so without ever having been exposed to the fact that the construction trades are not only an honorable career path, but a viable option for those whose creativity and intelligence is above a college-level. It’s an option that we should all promote and embrace—these people are true geniuses and artists.
– Chris Williams, Director of Safety
As we continued with our training, the highlight of my experience had been the hands-on industrial training. On day one, the torch felt heavy, uncomfortable and foreign to handle. But after instruction from Dan and Albert, my cuts improved dramatically—I was able to cut a straight 6 inch line and even added an angled turn. Inside the classroom and after talking to fellow ABC staff, I learned about the necessary details required in industrial construction. Before this trip, I didn’t realize how precise welds and measurements must be on industrial projects due to the fact that there is no room for error when handling hazardous and flammable material. After only a few days here and listening to our instructors, I now have a newfound appreciation of how precise these craft professionals must be.
– Drew Schneider, Manager of Legislative Affairs
I never thought I would use the Pythagorean theorem, geometry or trigonometry again, but I did today while learning different trades, especially pipe fitting. The numbers that have to be calculated to ensure that pipes line up and are the correct height was simply astonishing. Once the math was complete, being able to cut and fit pipes to the proper settings was almost as hard as the calculations. It really gave me appreciation of the amount of time and work that our craft workers have to put in to be successful at their trades.
– Nicholas Tovar, Director of Business Development & Partnerships