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Shop to Show Floor: Building Better Builders

A New Teamsters Training Facility Trains the Next Generation of Industry Professionals

by F. Andrew Taylor

How do you become a teamster? Practice, hard work and, if you’re lucky and live in Las Vegas, more than 2,000 hours of training at the new Southern Nevada Teamsters 631 Convention & Construction Training facility. The new facility at 4490 Nexus Way in North Las Vegas, is over 70,000 square feet, more than twice as large as the previous training facility, and it was designed not only to train new teamsters, but to sharpen the skills of current teamsters. The project is a collaboration between employers and the union that originated from collective bargaining discussions. It’s designed to bring the best people into the labor force.

“It’s essential for us as employers because it’s creating our skilled workforce,” says Bill Muller, director of operations/western region Renaissance Management Inc., and employer co-chair of Local 631 Training Trust.

teamsters-training-745x400The facility opened in January after nearly a year of build out from a shell. Thanks to careful planning, the classes smoothly transitioned from the old location to the new facility and the training was never interrupted. The new structure includes classrooms and offices, but the majority of the building houses a mock warehouse and mini showroom for training. Apprentices and journeyman can take classes at the facility where they practice I&D on pipe and drape and more complex booths (including two story booths), decorating, forklift operation, floor layout and many other practical applications of skills related to the tradeshow and exhibition industry.

“I invite all 631 signatory employers to contact Crystal Van Dyke, our director, and set up an appointment to visit our new facility and its expanded and improved capabilities,” says Muller. “Said input from signatory employers is critical to the success of our program.”

At an open house on March 28, the facility demonstrated all of these things while installing booths, bringing stock to them and then dismantling the booths and bringing the components out to trailers outside ready to be shipped away.

“We could do some of this at the old facility, but the new location allows us to greatly expand what we can do and the number of people we can have doing it at one time,” says Muller. “The city and the needs have been growing for many years and we wanted to step out ahead and have the people ready to meet those new needs.”

Crystal VanDyke, the apprenticeship coordinator/director for Teamsters Local 631 notes that about 180 to 240 apprentices take classes at the facility each year. A vigorous testing and scoring system prior to admission weeds out all but the best, so there is almost no dropout rate.

“We do intake maybe once a year or so,” says Muller. “This year 1,000 people applied. Only 490 passed the reading, writing and arithmetic tests and the top 60 scorers were invited to become apprentices in the program. We were extremely selective.”

Those 60 went through boot camp, a physical aptitude test that includes walking several miles and performing physical tasks that emulate the sort of work they will do on the floor– including carrying 10-pound bags and placing them on an eight-foot crate, going up and down ladders and rolling weighted carts over carpeting.

“We’ve always been working to get to the next level,” says Tim Koviak, a trustee with Teamsters 631. “We’ve been trying to figure out how to get better people on the show floor and how to create a better experience. I think this is one more step towards getting there.”

Koviak believes a big part of what makes it all work is rather than using a separate training staff, the program takes the best from the industry who teach what they do and can quickly adapt to changes in the industry, teaching how to install a new kind of display or operate a new kind of equipment.

teamster-truck-7“The new facility allows us to employ more technology in the training process,” says Bernie Masset, senior director of events for MC2 and one of the four employer trustees of the facility. “Not just overhead projectors, but more technology that is in sync with what we do now. It also allows us the space to teach seven or eight classes at once.”

The trustees and staff of the facility hope it will serve as an example for other cities and show the value of an apprenticeship program in any city that serves the tradeshow industry.

“We want to put out a workforce and a product that isn’t just good, but is excellent,” explains Masset. “We want a workforce that represents not just the union or the employer or even themselves but one that represents an industry. When you’re out there you’re a face of Las Vegas.”

The Southern Nevada Teamsters 631 Convention & Construction Training facility is located at 4490 Nexus Way, Building 2, Suite #102,  North Las Vegas, NV 89115. Telephone:  (702) 651-0344. For more info, visit www.631train.com.

This story originally appeared in the May/June issue of Exhibit City News, p. 46-47. For more pictures and original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/may-jun_ecn2018 


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