Ironworkers Look to Hire 50 Apprentices with Latest Push

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With no shortage of work in sight, the Mahoning Valley Structural Ironworkers JAC is hosting a hiring push from now until the end of November for new apprenticeships.

Membership at Ironworkers Local 207 stands at 336, says its business manager, Tony Deley. With the current workload for 2020, bringing on another 30 apprentices “would hold us good right now this current year,” he says.

But with major, multi-year projects on the books for the next two years, including the Ultium Cells LLC battery plant in Lordstown, as well as work on the Lordstown Motors plant, the local hopes to bring on at least another 50, he says.

Applicants start their training with an hourly wage of $18.50, which increases to $30.25 after completing their training, according to The Builders Association. In addition to pay, a career with the ironworkers includes health care, pensions and “a great annuity plan,” says Gary Hartman, the Builders’ association services director.

The apprenticeship provides tuition-free training to approved applicants as well as national certifications, he says.

Anyone interested in applying should do so before the end of November. Apply online at MVStructuralIronWorkersJAC.com or visit the office at 698 Bev Road, Youngstown.

This hiring push comes at a time when all trades nationally are experiencing a shortage, Hartman says. Within the next five years, he expects the trades to be about “2 million bodies short” nationally, he says.

“Ideally, it would be great to get 80 to 90 new applicants,” Hartman says. “But that would just be unheard of in our world.”

Attrition is a big factor, he says. So the association is working with area building trades unions to get the next generation of workers started now so they’re properly trained before that attrition takes effect “and we have a more significant shortage than we already have,” he says.

The average retirement age for ironworkers is 60, notes Deley. On average, the local loses three to five members annually from retirement, he says.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job outlook for ironworkers is strong with an expected 5% gain, faster than the average, with an employment increase of about 4,500 workers.

Currently, the mean annual wage for structural iron and steel workers nationally is $59,170, or $28.45 hourly, according to the bureau. Ohio has the fourth most number of employed ironworkers in the U.S. at 3,460. The annual mean wage in the Buckeye state is $60,140.

While finding people who can pass a drug test was an issue a few years ago, today the challenge is getting applications in the door, Hartman says. And though Junior Achievement’s JA Inspire event Nov. 19 will provide a good virtual opportunity for the trades to engage students, the lack of an in-person skilled trades expo this year will make recruitment challenging.

The Builders Association recently helped organize a hiring drive with Sheet Metal Worker’s Local 33, Hartman says. He expects similar drives with the cement masons and roofers in the next few months.

“It’s going to be a pretty big push over the next six months for a lot of the different trades,” he says.

Local 207 has been hiring year round, reports Deley. In addition to apprentices, the local hires probationary workers who usually have some previous mechanical or construction experience, and/or welding experience, Deley says. Apprentices usually start from square one, he notes.

After a week-long orientation, probationary hires get certified for OSHA 10 “and we send them out to work,” he says. This summer, the local hired 45 probationary workers out of some 80 applicants, he says.

“We have been fortunate. We’ve had a lot of applicants, and a lot of good applicants,” Deley says.

For applicants with no experience, they can expect two years of classroom and job-site training before they are comfortable with the trade, he says. In the first year, apprentices receive beginner training on welding, reinforcing (working with rebar), and rigging and structural work, he says.

“In the first year, you’re learning what we do and what is needed to perform these skills,” Deley says. “But you don’t have all the ins and outs.”

Local 207 covers projects in the Mahoning Valley as well as five counties in western Pennsylvania, he says. Most of the members tend to work in that coverage area, although some have requested to travel when work is available.

A few of the local’s members traveled to Las Vegas during construction of the $1.8 billion Allegiant Stadium, the new football stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders.

“There’s always something going on somewhere in the United States,” Deley says.

Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.