Superintendent Joseph A Welch and Deidra Morgan review units.

A partnership between Phoenix-based Ironworkers Local 75 and Enclos Corp. helped mitigate local workforce challenges and provide hands-on unitized curtainwall assembly training for apprentices.

The partnership with Enclos stems from shop superintendent Joe Welch, who approached Local 75 business manager Jason Sangster and business agent Mike Ciesielksi with an idea to employ apprentices at Enclos’ Phoenix assembly facility.

Mike Padgett, Enclos’ executive vice president of field operations, says the partnership was a response to a lack of worker availability in the Phoenix area, as candidates were difficult to recruit. Welch, who has more than 30 years in the glazing and curtainwall industry, adds that apprentices were a great solution to finding capable workers.

Edgar Loza and Carlos Santiago set up for a water test.

“I had a relationship with different temp agencies in town, but they weren’t supplying me with quality people who were career-minded,” he says. “Typically, with apprentices knowing that they have a career future, they have a better work ethic and attendance.”

Local 75 was chartered in 1910 and has more than 1,000 active members and retirees. Its workers often tackle various challenges, including structural, reinforcing, ornamental, rigging/machinery-moving, or welding/burning.

The unitized curtainwall assembly training is in-depth, says Sangster. He explains that the apprentices are hands-on with the curtainwall from start to finish. The work includes assembling a unitized curtainwall frame assembly, learning proper joiner caulking and structural sealant, using 3D models and shop drawing to build units, water testing units, packing and bunking unitized curtainwall units in sequence, shipping and receiving, and running Exacta blend pumps with Dow983.

“They build the units,” he says. “This gives the apprentices the ability to go out and learn about glass right away. They don’t need tools because [Enclos] provides the tools. A lot of these guys come in, and they don’t have the money to buy an extra set of ironworking tools on top of paying initiation. This allows them to go out there and make some money, purchase tools and get ready for big jobs.”

Sangster adds that the apprentices filter through the facility until they’re about halfway through the program. They will then move on to an actual jobsite.

“It does work well,” he says. “You can take people unsure about the work and introduce it to them. They figure out whether they want to be there or not.”

The goal of the partnership is to develop local ironworkers for work in the Phoenix market. Padgett says that as with all of Enclos’ trade partners, the company aims “to recruit and train the future tradespersons in our industry.”

The curtainwall training is expected to continue for “quite some time,” says Welch. Enclos plans to keep the facility open despite its original intent for only one project. The apprentices and Enclos are currently working on an assembly for a hospital in California, followed by a project for the San Diego airport.

“We’re pretty well stacked up right now,” says Welch.