New ETI Training Director David Nott Answers Our Questions
By Evan Henerson
A familiar face has a new position at the ETI. In early December, David Nott became the new ETI Training Director.
The former NECA Apprenticeship Coordinator has come full circle, graduating from the Local 11 apprenticeship program himself. The Long Beach-raised Nott has had a lengthy tenure on the management side of the industry. News @ 11 recently spoke with Nott about where things currently are with one of the largest training programs in the country and the road ahead.
News @ 11: Let’s go back to your initial entry into administration. What made you leave the field for management?
David Nott: I would phrase it as ‘giving back.’ During my apprenticeship program, I got married, bought my first house, my first car and I had my first child. The apprenticeship program was the means by which I could do all of those things, so I felt very obligated to our industry for what they had done for me and I felt that there needed to be some give-back. When I was approached about the NECA coordinator position, it was a position where not only did I get to interact with and help apprentices, but I would also have a seat at the table where decisions were being made about our industry, specifically the apprenticeship program. I wanted to be in that seat.
News@11: Back when you were in the program and later when you joined ETI as NECA Apprenticeship Coordinator, how different was the apprenticeship program then?
DN: Significantly. When I was going through the program, we had district training areas. Each district had its own training location. In 2004, the JAC made the decision to centralize that and buy the ETI and the large facility for more centralized training, consolidating everything. That was one of the first factors. When I went through the program, we had less than 400 apprentices. We’re pushing 1,900 right now. With growth comes its own set of issues and problems sometimes. So that would be another one. When I went through the program, the apprenticeship policies were six pages long. I think we’re up to 39 now.
I will also say that doing this consolidation has given us a better opportunity to give a better education to the apprentices with the facility that we have. You see the size of the building and the lab equipment. Those weren’t available in my day to that extent at all. Not that we didn’t get training, but I think we were able to take it to the next level here because of that decision the trustees made. I would say that, overall, apprentices are now getting a better educational experience than they had back in my day.
News @ 11: What have been some of the changes you have implemented since taking over in your new position?
DN: The first week was really a deep dive into where we were at that time. What I found was that we were overloaded in the evening classes and on Saturdays. We have a finite number of parking spaces and I think we were inviting more people for training than we had parking spaces for and that was causing its own set of problems. There were classes that had between 30-40 students in a class instead of what I would consider a reasonable number of students in a class to try and teach.
I’ve already made some fairly large changes. I’ve moved the 4th year apprentices from night classes back to day classes to free up some of the room and instructors that we need. I’ve moved the CW’s classification from Saturday to Sundays. That’s cut down on the number of people who are here at one time and that’s going to allow me to launch more journey level classes that these journeymen need either to take calls on the book or for their continuing education units so they can renew their state certification. We weren’t doing a great job of launching enough classes because we were so jammed in the evenings and on Saturdays.
News @ 11: What are some of the other challenges you and the program are still facing?
DN: I need more instructors and they’re starting to come in slowly, but I really need not only just regular part-time instructors, but some subject matter experts. We’re teaching a transformers class, and I need somebody that has a lot of experience doing that because they do that type of work day in and day out, or somebody that’s out in an industrial job like a refinery. I need to get those types of people in to help not only teach but to help train the next generation of instructors to be subject matter experts in those things. If we are going to claim to be the best training facility out there, then we have to have the best instructors to teach that material to the apprentices.
News @ 11: What kind of feedback have you been receiving from the apprentices since you’ve been in your new position?
DN: A big issue for the apprentices was how they were being treated as far as customer service and being attentive to what they need. I am changing things here so not only are we more responsive to their needs, but we are going to give them an unparalleled service experience, something they probably have asked for but have never believed we could provide.
We have an automated phone system here and I’m getting rid of that. I’m going to have live people answering these calls and directing that caller to the proper person to handle whatever it is they need. I’m going to make sure if anyone has to leave a voicemail or sends an e-mail, they get a response within 24 hours. All these members and contractors send money to us for all of this and I think we are obligated to give them an elevated level of service here.
News @ 11: What do you consider to be some of the benefits of being part of a program like this one and of being in a union in general?
DN: There are so many benefits. I’ve been part of this industry on so many different levels now, from being in the apprenticeship program to sitting as a trustee on health and pension. Overall, I will say that this is a fantastic industry. The way we have things set up with labor and management sitting at the same table, making decisions jointly and the impact it has on the members and the union contractors that we have. We have a model here for how we’re managing things between labor and management that not many other areas of the country have. We have the ability to sit down and talk about any subject and get things resolved.
What I think we’ve been able to achieve over just the past five years, with the training and the work we’re getting which spawns the future training we need to do, is something you wouldn’t see in the private sector or the non-union sector. You can feel it when you walk into the dispatch hall, everybody’s friendly. Everybody’s a brother or a sister and they get you. Everybody knows what you’ve gone through to get to where you are. I couldn’t see doing it any other way.