When Joseph Lansdell, president of Indiana-based Poynter Sheet Metal Inc., was a sheet metal apprentice and college student, he considered quitting the industry entirely. Positive mentors and a two-day contractors school led by a sheet metal contractor not only changed Lansdell’s mind, but also showed him a new career path.
Now, as the president of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s (SMACNA), Lansdell is focused on continuing such educational models and emphasizing mentorship within the industry.
“Phil Gillespie, who was chapter executive for SMACNA Indiana at the time and who became one of my mentors, shared things that really hit home for me. Before that, I didn’t really understand the opportunities available to me,” Lansdell said.
This year, SMACNA will revisit its strategic plan and use that as a vehicle to structure future leadership and mentoring programs
Others who Lansdell considers important mentors during his career include his father; former SMACNA President Phil Meyers; and Don Poynter, Poynter Sheet Metal’s founder.
“One of SMACNA’s greatest gifts is the ability to match people of similar interests together and develop lifelong relationships that survive generations,” he said.
Future Leaders Wanted
Lansdell said one of his priorities for the industry is developing future leaders.
“Finding a way to get the next generation of SMACNA contractors engaged and ready to lead the industry is an ongoing challenge we all face,” he said.
To address that challenge, SMACNA is now revisiting its strategic plan, and will use that as a vehicle to structure future leadership and mentoring programs. The plan also will focus on increasing market share and preparing the industry for opportunities that lie ahead.
Additionally, the plan will take into consideration the needs of owners, their changing priorities, and expectations in designing and constructing flexible facilities that will adjust to their future needs.
The plan will take into consideration the needs of owners, their changing priorities, and expectations in designing and constructing flexible facilities that will adjust to their future needs.
“With companies required to shift and retool their operations on the fly, constructing a building has now become part of the owner’s strategic plan, not a separate entity as in the past,” Lansdell said. “This change presents opportunities for SMACNA contractors and their skilled workforce.”
Once the national plan is complete, Lansdell hopes chapters and fellow contractors can use some of the findings in their own plans. Chapters should consider integrating elements of the national plan locally for an industry-wide effort to achieve important objectives, he said.
In 2017, Lansdell’s Indiana contractors school will reach approximately 200 apprentices, all from Local No. 20. The class focuses on the business side of the sheet metal industry, educating apprentices about contractors’ perspectives. Apprentices attend a shop tour and hold informal discussion groups with a variety of individuals, from field superintendents to upper management. They learn what contractors look for in employees and how to set short- and long-term career goals.
“Apprentices meet local craftspersons who started out just like them but now have a broader perspective,” said Tim Myres, training coordinator for Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, which covers the state of Indiana for SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “These interactions have the power to influence them throughout their careers.”
Thus, Myres is working with Lansdell to ensure that mentorship remains a vital part of the apprenticeship process. “Journeypersons who have been in the trade for decades have expertise to share, and it’s important to tap that knowledge and advice before it’s gone,” Myres said. He expects many of the experienced members of the local to retire within five years.
“Mentorship is a cycle that continues indefinitely,” Lansdell said. “When apprentices have access to mentors early on in their careers, they are likely to become mentors later.”
Myres says the partnership between SMART and SMACNA strengthens the sheet metal industry: “It is nothing but positive for our apprenticeship programs.”