John “Jack” Dunlevy may be in the midst of one of the most demanding apprenticeship programs out there, but he has nothing but praise for the opportunity and everything he has learned.
While programs in some other fields run three or four years, the Sheet Metal Workers is five years long. He is currently a 4th term apprentice – two years in. Terms run roughly six months – Dunlevy expects to graduate sometime in 2021. A short six month “pre-apprenticeship” began his journey, and he’s never looked back.
“It’s never lost on me how fortunate I am to have this opportunity,” Dunlevy says. Out of 7,000 applications for the program in the year he applied, only 300- to 400 were selected. Dunlevy had previously been working in what he calls, “not very good jobs,” such as retail and package handling. He’d never done construction of any kind, had “no experience of any kind,” but “they set me up – and taught me everything I know about construction.”
In the apprenticeship program, Dunlevy takes ongoing classes where most of the training is verbal and written, adding: “Most valuable to me is the advice I get on how to go about doing what we do on the job.”
The on-the-job training is comprehensive, and includes such skills as fabricating, sketching, blueprints, and welding.
“Most of what we do [in Local 28] is ductwork,” he says. That involves shop work and the fabrication of what is installed. “Sheet metal workers make everything we install out of flat pieces of metal,” Dunlevy explains. “We are involved in every step of the process,” and “we make sure the engineer gets what he asked for.”
Dunlevy has been with two companies since he started his training, working primarily on commercial buildings. He’s enthusiastic about where his work has taken him. “I get to travel to different job sites all over the city, so I see different problems and different solutions,” leading to increased opportunities to learn, he says. Most are renovations of office spaces or storefronts, and involve heating and cooling and air flow systems. “It’s something different every day; it’s challenging mentally and physically.”
Dunlevy is also pro-active — taking photographs when things are interesting or new, so he can study them later, excitedly looking forward to possible future areas of focus. “There are different fields you can specialize in. I’m interested in sketching, and taking night classes for learning the computer blueprint programs required,” he says.
His dedication has not gone unnoticed. Says Leah Rambo, JAC Administration, SMART Local 28 Training Center, “We are nominating Jack for Outstanding Apprentice because he is excelling in all aspects of our program. He was also the first place winner for his year in the 2018 Eastern Regional Sheet Metal Apprenticeship Contest. Fifteen sheet metal unions compete in this contest.”
At the conclusion of the program, Dunlevy will be a Journeyman, or Sheet Metal Mechanic. He’s grateful for both the learning opportunity and the attributes of the Local itself. “Local 28 has big projects, it’s competitive. It is the best place to learn sheet metal work.”