The sincerity in his words and passion in his voice are byproducts of the tangible evidence of his efforts. Scott Johnson of Local 916 is a carpenter who effuses enthusiasm and gratitude when discussing the extensive coursework he completed through the Carpenter Apprentice and Training School. It is a zeal that at its foundation emanates from personal tragedy and workplace experience, building momentum over time through self-driven motivation and deep admiration for dedicated training instructors.
Johnson began working as a nonunion carpenter in 1986, eventually joining the union in 1995. In hearing him describe this transition, it could be considered one of those forks in the road resulting in a successful navigation that will go down as a lifetime milestone.
“I saw the light (in joining the union),” said Johnson, who was inspired by Local 916’s Business Manager Dave Schneider to make the switch. “There was the treatment of the worker and how everyone looked out for each other as a brotherhood. There were the benefits and wages. And there was the safety aspect and being considered ‘skilled labor.’”
At age 3, Johnson lost his father to a construction site accident. It’s something he has always carried with him and always will.
“Safety is a big thing for me, and I don’t say that lightly” said Johnson. “I’ve seen the effects. I used to get laughed at as a nonunion carpenter for wearing safety glasses, and I got embarrassed and stopped wearing them. But I know the importance of going home to our families every night.”
Johnson fondly remembers his rigging certification course as he hearkens back to a job site experience.
“I saw the safety aspect in that class while at work on the job,” recalls Johnson. “We were moving a swing stage and finally we put our foot down and said we will not move this with these weights on. All of a sudden one of the wheels gives out. The next thing I hear is, ‘Let’s get more guys to move it,’ so now all of a sudden you go from one of the guys in danger to let’s get all the guys in danger. If I’d have never had that class I’d have never known these things. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever had, and I highly recommend it.”
AMBITIOUS AND THANKFUL
The Carpenter Training Center is an opportunity in the eyes of Scott Johnson. What he puts in is what he gets out.
“If I could give back an iota to that facility I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Johnson said. “That’s how grateful I am. When I am there I am excited to be there. I may have to leave Plano (Illinois) at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., yet I am pretty jacked up to go. Nonunion guys don’t have this opportunity.
“A lot of companies now make the 30-hour OSHA course mandatory. And sometimes you learn that certain hardware can only be installed by a certified installer. You actually have to work and accept the challenge, not just show up. All the instructors are there for you. They want you to do well. I can’t say it enough.”
Johnson got a succinct real-world employment rejection many years ago that he’s used as a learning experience.
“I went for an interview one day,” he recalls, “and the interviewer said, ‘You go get this steel stud training class.’ She kind of laughed and told me that I better take that class before she would even talk any further with me. I was more a residential carpenter. I never had the honors of doing commercial carpentry. I evolved.”
Johnson is currently employed, armed with skills and confidence.
“Don’t feel embarrassed that you don’t know something—take a class,” recommends Johnson. “Through education you can fight off some of the anxiety you feel on the job and feel confident in your abilities. Our facility is always on the cutting edge. It does such an outstanding job in every facet and helps us be more employable. I certainly appreciate being welcomed there and feel honored walking into the facility. And I mean that sincerely.
“I started a welding course several months back, and I hadn’t welded in about 20 years! I’ve now earned certifications in Welding I (limited), II (unlimited) and III (heavy-gauge sheet metal), and am planning on enrolling in Table Saw and Solid Surface II. I am extremely excited with where the Carpenter Training Center is going with the Door Hardware program. I plan on taking all the new courses.”
The industry will always embrace skill, a positive attitude and a desire to succeed. In Scott Johnson of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, the industry can’t go wrong.
Visit www.chicap.org to learn more about the Carpenters’ Apprentice and Training Program.