By Jeremy Kehoe
Since taking over as Local 11 ETI Training Director last January, David Nott has remained laser focused on advancing one fundamental premise: the nation’s largest training program must be a world-class operation that equips every student with the highest skills and education they need to succeed on the job.
Nott’s first step in transforming his mission into reality was a literal one – an old-school, pen-and-paper canvas of the ETI campus.
During his first week Nott and his staff walked the Commerce campus, notebooks in hand, and wrote down pages of notes identifying every issue that needed to be addressed and then developed a timeline and action plan to resolve each one.
The top priority for every action item was making sure every change delivers the maximum benefit to the 2,200 students and journeypersons who take classes at ETI.
The first update that needed to be made was plain to see: a lack of parking spaces for members coming in for training.
“We have 500 to 600 people down at the ETI every day, but we only have about 400 parking spaces, so I started thinking, ‘What does that do to the attitude of people showing up here when they come and they can’t find a spot and they have to park on the street somewhere,’” Nott said.
That seemingly simple act of making sure Local 11 brothers and sisters have a place to park set Nott in motion to strategically reshuffle the entire training and classroom schedule.
He moved fourth-year apprentices from night school to day school to free up classrooms and parking spots during the day to relieve pressure on the night classes and allowed ETI to add new journey-level classes during the evenings. Nott also shifted CW classes to Sundays to alleviate the Saturday traffic.
“That’s really been one of the biggest shifts here – moving the fourth-years and CW’s around,” Nott said. “That’s allowed us to utilize our space more and offer more opportunities for journeymen and Saturday labs.”
Building a Better Learning Experience
Other action items topping Nott’s list Include reducing instructor-to-apprentice classroom ratios and overall class sizes, bringing in subject-matter experts, adding tutoring classes, hiring staff to better respond to member inquiries, and reorganizing training classes to better accommodate students’ schedules.
Nott met with ETI instructors and established minimum and maximum limits on class size at 10 and 20, respectively, for apprentices and journeymen to ensure every member gets the attention they need to take full advantage of every training session.
“It started with COVID where we had instructors who couldn’t come in, so we were combining classes where one instructor was handling 35 to 40 students – not a great learning experience for the students, very stressful for the instructor, and the quality goes down,” Nott said. “So, I’ve changed that and put that cap on there. I feel our instructors are happy with that, and I feel like the students are getting a better learning experience because that experience is a little more individualized than it used to be.”
Embracing a Shift in Attitude
Nott understands that creating not just the biggest but the best ETI in the nation transcends the logistical.
Creating a world-class ETI requires top-down commitment from all 120 ETI staff to embrace a culture of change at every level – from providing clean and safe classrooms, to bolstering the quality of the instructors, to installing a new phone system to accelerate response times to members’ phone and email inquiries (which average about 9,000 every month).
“Our new mantra here became, ‘Everything we do is going to be world class,’” Nott said.
That facility-wide vow to heighten the member experience from the moment they enter the parking lot through the time they exit the classroom has already paid off for instructors and students.
“We use what we call dark week – anytime there’s a holiday during the week when we don’t have day school – to provide training to our instructors to make them better experts on the materials they teach and how to manage classrooms better directly translates into a better educational experience for every apprentice,” Nott said.
That enhanced instructor training – and ETI instructors’ willingness to embrace it – has helped create a new climate that has reinvigorated students, Nott said.
“If students feel like they’re getting value out of sitting in the class, so they feel like, ‘I want to go to class’ instead of, ‘I gotta go to class’ – that’s the value I’m starting to see,” Nott said. “Our students are starting to get more invested in their training because they’re starting to see the facility raising the bar. I’ve seen a major shift in the attitudes of the students.”
Members Taking Notice
Nott’s commitment and dedication has impressed Local 11 brothers and sisters. In a recent News@11 column, Cristopher Rodriguez, Apprentice Council President and 5th Year I/W Apprentice wrote about walking into Nott’s office downtrodden, certain the status quo would never change, and emerged reinvigorated convinced a new era at ETI was dawning.
Nott recalls that conversation with Rodriguez vividly.
“We met for about an hour and a half, and he had some assumptions about what was happening here, and once we talked them through I think he turned around on a few of those,” Nott said. “We walked through the facility together, and I showed him what we’re doing to improve the classrooms and what our plans were overall. I think that was breath of fresh air to him to get an inside look at what we’re doing and planning.”
Nott gives two words to describe his first six months at the ETI helm: busy and challenging.
“You always have something that crops up that needs your attention,” Nott said. “But it makes it rewarding when you solve problems. So, as challenging and busy as it’s been, it’s also been rewarding.”