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Connect For Effect
Posted on June 03, 2009 by Greer Sisson
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“Connect for Effect” what a cool name for an Action Clinic don’t you think?  Or maybe you are thinking...who cares what you call your Action Clinic, after all wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  True, if I was talking about flowers, which I am not.  I am talking about Action Clinics and how to draw a crowd.  Iowa chose the name Connect for Effect because it reflects exactly what we are trying to accomplish through integration. We don’t see integration as just a workforce / apprenticeship partnership.  We realize to get anything done we need to bring lots of partners together to join forces in an effort to effectively connect our services.  Besides everyone wants to be connected or get connected, don’t you think?

So why am I telling you all this?  Laura is making me (just kidding) Laura suggested I BLOG about the Iowa Action Clinic because many states are in the process of doing some sort of Action Clinic.  But instead of writing about it you can actually view our Action Clinic….that’s right!  Iowa Workforce recorded it and we are using it to further train and educate partners.  You can also view the power points and handouts we developed and maybe something we have done would work for your Clinic so you don’t have to start from scratch.

BTW…Iowa’s Action Clinic was a huge success.  It was attended by 135 workforce staff, employers, organized labor and their representatives, education and workforce partners.  

So I know Laura wasn’t just making stuff up, why don’t you BLOG me and let me know what you are calling your Action Clinic and how it turned out! 



The first day of attending the 2009 Eastern Seaboard Apprenticeship Conference (hence, ESAC) was, in all honestly, amazing, and I would expect nothing less.  The opening ceremony was truly moving, which was opened by the Boston Police Bagpipe and Drum group, followed by our national anthem sung by Dan Clarke, an amazing singer with the Massachusetts State Police.  As they say up here in these parts, it was “wicked cool.”  Although I am now a Louisiana girl, I’ve also been a Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts girl as well. So, being in the Back Bay of Boston again has been a sentimental walk down memory lane, to say the least.  Boston has a charm and feel to it unlike any other city I’ve known, and the opening ceremony was reflective of that – moving and unforgettable. Only New Orleans can rival it.

But even more impressive than the opening ceremonies was the keynote speaker.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that most of the conferences I have attended over the years have had lackluster keynote speakers at best. But today was different.  Today was Mark Breslin of Breslin Strategies, Inc. – author, strategist, expert, and truth monger.  He is a consultant for group training programs and labor-management relations.  In my opinion, he is a visionary as well.  (Mark, I take cash or money orders only, $5 per word for the kudos).

So, after participating through two sessions of his, I knew I had to share with all of you.  His core message, in a nutshell, is this:  Times have changed, so apprenticeship programs, particularly those in the construction and building trades, need to change with them in order to stay relevant, grow, and compete.  

Well, after listening to him, I am a believer in the Breslin mantra.  It’s time to get real and face the music.  Apprenticeship programs, especially the ones that have been around for a long time, are missing the boat.  They hope to keep running their programs the same way they always have, which used to work, but doesn’t any longer.  There is a deep rooted apprenticeship culture in some industries – we’ll call it the “old school” way – that worked well with baby boomers, less so with Generation X, and next to impossible to apply to Generation Y.  It’s getting harder and harder to develop and retain the high quality apprentices that employers need.

In an effort to keep this from resembling the length of a masters dissertation, I’ll give you a quick tease of the high points that were covered, which emphasize the need for apprenticeship programs to take a hard look at how to better serve their customers, which require a cultural shift in thinking.
  • Apprenticeship programs should be regarded as leadership development training, and encouraged.
  • Apprenticeship programs would be more effective if they adopted the same priorities as the top ten most admired companies in this country have, such as providing a high return on investment, disciplined evaluation, creating a people based culture, long term planning, and innovation.
  • A supervisor training track should be implemented and available for apprentices that are identified early on as leadership material – don’t make them “pay their dues” for ten years before they’re promoted – long after they’ve left for greener pastures.
  • The top three motivators for apprentices are praise and recognition, participation in decision making, and money.  Generation X and Y, those that are prime recruiting material, respond most favorably when these motivators are used.
  • Apprenticeship programs need to do a better job of harnessing the power of including apprentices in the decision making process, creating a culture of thinkers.
  • Contractors need to make changes in the worksite culture as well, by changing success measures, implementing more organizational accountability and creating an environment of responsibility and respect.
  • Foremen/supervisors need the three Ms: money, motivation and mentoring – in order to maximize their effectiveness on the job, and gain the tools necessary to develop apprentices into thinkers and leaders as well.
I know what you’re thinking, training directors and contractors.  “My program is of the highest quality!  There is plenty of accountability!  But these kids today, they’re lazy, unreliable, and don’t value hard work.  We have to break them down the build them back up, make them realize their place, and they have to pay dues like I did.  We’re not going to hold their hands and tell them how wonderful they are, like their mothers do.  These kids need to learn a lesson.”

While there is truth to this, there is also truth in the fact that we need to change with the times, and admit that some of our programs need a serious shot of vitamin B12 to reenergize and revitalize.  We need to develop leaders and thinkers that take pride in their work and believe in it.   Breslin calls it a culture of “from head to heart to hands.”  No, he’s not a hippy, kumbaya, lets-hold-hands kind of guy.  He gets it.  Trust me on this one.  I didn’t even scratch the surface here with everything he covers.  You need to check out his website,  It’s worth it, I promise.
Stay tuned for The ESAC Diaries, Part 2: Feed Them and They Will Come.


A message from Paula Dudley, a potential Apprentice:

I have lived the typical story of a  girl who married and had children when she and her husband were much too young and were not ready, and one day the husband decided that his life was not what he wanted after all, and moved on while not surprisingly the responsibilities didn't disappear with him.

During marriage, money was always an issue. We found that we couldn't afford to let me be a stay at home mom, but besides a short stint in the military (honorable discharge), I didn't have any college education or specific training to be able find any "career" job. So I worked in jobs that didn't require more than the ability and desire to work; pizza delivery driver, stock person, cashier, holiday temp. While most of my employment could be described as "menial", I took my responsibilities and work very seriously and did my best at any assignment that was given to me.

As a divorced parent with custody of my young children and the responsibilities that came with it, of course money was still a huge issue. Any type of employment I did get had to be flexible, consistent income and something that didn't require lots of training before I could actually do the job.. I found work as a pt school bus driver, grocery cashier, and most recently a part time blackjack/table games dealer. While the income has had it benefits, the actual work didn't (have benefits), but it kept food on the table, and the lights on.

The kids are getting older, but I am not. I want to take more opportunities that are available to start my later in life "career".  Of course college is an option, but with it comes instant debt, as well as very limited instant work in most fields.  Starting a business could be a choice, but the risk of starting new with no previous experience, is just that, a risk.

I have watched my younger sister succeed in her work and learning in her apprenticeship. Over the years, I heard of her accomplishments and sometimes struggles to balance her life with her work. But with each passing hard day or week that Jennifer (Jennifer Murphy is a key contributor to our Community of Practice) would tell me about, she always reasoned with "the light at the end of the tunnel" and what the end result would be which I am proud to learn that she has just about completed.

I can and want to see myself putting the time and effort to commit myself to earning my place in an apprenticeship, and can't wait to see what life hold for me now:-)
Green with Envy
Posted on June 09, 2009 by John Gaal, EdD
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As I write this blog, it would be difficult to pick-up a newspaper without seeing something related to “green” on a number of its pages. Not that I am against saving our planet but I am concerned about confusing attempts to stir the economy. To date, I have yet to find a green “standard” for buildings. You say, “What about USGBC’s LEED or the NAHB’s NGBP?”  I say, “Remember the VCR?”

In addition, the Weatherization Assistance Program” has been touted as an excellent opportunity for non-traditionals to enter the building trades’ apprenticeship programs. However, as I encounter those individuals proposing this concept they are often referring to the energy auditor positions related to weatherization. To be sure, auditing a building and building a building are two totally different skill sets. To this end, I have spent the last three months attempting to identify (blue-collar) technician-level (portable and nationally recognized) certifications for the various tradespeople responsible for performing the weatherizing of residential and commercial structures. Again, I come up short-handed.

Therefore, as proponents of a time-tested training model, it is in our best interest to demand that taxpayers’ money be spent in a quality-minded manner. Now that the construction sector has slowed, building contractors supporting registered apprenticeship programs are in an enviable position to diversify their portfolios while addressing the energy conservation needs of our nation. Shame on us if we allow others to dictate the solutions to the two aforementioned paragraphs without weighing in on these vital issues of strategic importance!


"Its the wave of the future, green technology. But training for this growing industry is right here at home, today.  With the economy turning greener everyday, several electricians' unions are working to become leaders in renewable energy by giving apprentices the critical skills it takes to compete, " in Jola Szubielski's article highlighting that Richmond, Virginia's IBEW 666 is going green.  This was also covered by Richmond's Channel 12 News and the video can be found under our resources section.