Cross-training will provide opportunity
to work across trades to keep members working
By TIM ROWDEN
Explore St. Louis, the city’s convention and visitors commission, and the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) are participating in a federal grant program to train people to become union stagehands, projectionists and decorators.
Participating unions include: Decorators & Displaymen Local 39, IATSE Local 6 (Stagehands) and IATSE Local 143 (Projectionists).
The St. Louis Entertainment and Event Industry Apprenticeship Program will help set the stage for women and minorities to get into the entertainment and trade show industry and also help create new opportunities for the skilled union trades currently providing services to the clients and customers at the America’s Center convention complex and other event venues in the St. Louis area.
That work can be irregular, said Stagehands (IATSE) Local 6 Business Manager Joe Rudd, but the unique cross-training opportunity the program offers means apprentices and journeymen stagehands, projectionists and decorators will be able to work across disciplines, working wherever they’re needed.
“There’s not quite enough work around here to keep 20 apprentices going year round, but with cross training, they learn some stagehand work, some projectors work, some decorators work. It’s a committed effort by the three of us to take them and work them and put them high on our list.”
Mayor Francis Slay, Explore St. Louis President Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, U.S. Dept. of Labor Missouri State Director Neil Perry and SLATE Executive Director Michael Holmes announced the new apprenticeship opportunity last week with representatives from the participating unions.
MODELED AFTER TRADES
BUILDING UNION DIVERSITY (BUD) PROGRAM
The St. Louis Entertainment and Event Industry Apprenticeship Program is developed under Department of Labor guidelines standards and is modeled on the St. Louis Building Trades Council’s Building Union Diversity (BUD) program which has proven successful in recruiting women and minority apprentices looking for opportunities in the building trades.
The program is made possible through a U.S. Department of Labor grant to SLATE under the Compete Midwest Initiative that was put forth by a coalition of three urban, Midwest, workforce development partners – SLATE and its counterparts in Milwaukee and Detroit.
“SLATE looks forward to working with the three local trade unions to help them access new talent and diversify their talent pool from the entire St. Louis metropolitan area,” said Michael Holmes, executive director of SLATE. “Registered apprenticeships will give jobseekers the chance to earn as they learn from experienced decorators, stagehands and projectionists. They will also be able to learn multiple skill sets and contribute to any and all events held at America’s Center.”
Apprentices will train in: OSHA safety and procedures, St. Louis Hospitality and Customer Service, technical skills like forklift, boom and scissor lift operation and cross-train in the skills of the various unions, which include both audio/visual production and exhibitor set up.
“This has not been done before,” Ratcliffe said. “This is a real opportunity for our current workforce as well to learn and be able to cross-train in those skills, making our skilled workers more adaptable to the changing needs of our customers on a national and global basis.
“I think it will stand as a model for our colleagues around the country as they try to figure out how to do that. We also hope it will stand as a model for other venues within this region. These unions do some work in other buildings as well and we hope that this will continue and open up new opportunities for workers throughout the region.”
“Nothing is going to happen in our market without providing opportunity for the new people to come in,” said Gordon Hayman, business manager for Projectionists (IATSE) Local 143. “We want to do what they did with the BUD program in our entertainment industry.”
Frank Condellire, business manager of Decorators and Displaymen USW Local 39 said the benefit for the unions is in keeping members working.
“Right now the trade show industry in St. Louis has a lot of competitors. They compete with tier two cities like Indianapolis and Nashville and Kansas City. So to keep these place full of events to keep everybody working full time is a real challenge. That’s why we’re going to try doing cross training. So guys working off our list, when we get slow they can work off the stagehands list. We use the same core people. The future event guy will know how to do trade shows, event production and video. That’s the goal.”
PROVIDING A LIFELINE
Ultimately, it comes down to providing good jobs.
“A good job is a lifeline,” Mayor Slay said. “It strengthens individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. The more we can support our residents and offer opportunities for better futures the more we will prosper together.
“Conventions need skilled laborers to put on the best event possible for the many groups and people that come through this convention center and our city,” Slay said.
Slay extended special thanks to the participating unions, noting “Your expertise makes all the difference. Our residents will learn from the best and secure opportunities to not only get a job but to build a career. Making sure residents have the hands on training and skills to secure a job today is a benefit to employees and employers alike.”
$5 BILLION INDUSTRY
Ratcliffe said the St. Louis region boasts a $5 billion convention and tourism industry, employing about 8,500 people in tourism related and industry relate business.
Speaking at a press conference at the Americas Center, Ratcliffe said, “The events that fill this building and the hotels and restaurants and business around it are a direct result of the skilled labor that works in this facility, providing move-in to set-up for those shows so that they can properly be produced and that once they’re done, they help tear down and move it out to the next event. We are very pleased to join with SLATE in this program.
“It helps us build on the current skilled workforce that we have living in the community and working in this building. And it will also help us in diversifying the union workforce by giving new opportunities to women and minorities to learn the necessary skills to work within this trade industry.”
Anyone interested in applying can call SLATE at (314) 589-8000 and ask for special projects.