The Beauty of a Blank Canvas


The Beauty of a Blank Canvas

A-1 takes a start-from-scratch approach to training new recruits.

“I was in a transition phase of my life and saw an opportunity where no experience was necessary. I was intrigued to apply where I could be paid to learn and that is exactly what hooked me in,” said Jason Smith, truss design training instructor with A-1 Roof Trusses in Fort Pierce, Florida. Smith was one of the first graduates of the A-1 Truss Design Training Program (TDTP) nearly three years ago. Today, he sees the reverse side of the process as a program instructor.

“It was certainly intimidating at first. You were part of a very large group of candidates and after going through the assessments and as the day progressed, the numbers started to substantially decrease. It felt scary and exciting at the same time,” said Smith.

Setting Students up for Success

A-1 Roof Trusses Truss TechniciansUpon completion of the ten-week program, the transition to real life “almost felt organic,” according to Smith. “It was a nice feeling to be able to set up and have your home station in the open environment A-1 offers,” said Smith, who continues to seek assistance from peers. In an atmosphere where learning is fostered, “If you are willing to learn, there is always a willingness to teach,” he said.

“Now, it’s exciting to be on the other end of it,” explained Smith. He represents A-1 at a state college career fair, continues to refine criteria for the course with a mentor and is involved in teaching the class. “All this time I was taking in [information] and now the time has come where I can give back and spread the knowledge to other recruits.”  

The training program has been adapted to meet industry standards and uses SBCA’s Truss Technician Training (TTT) program in its core curriculum. The recruits who successfully complete the course earn a permanent placement within A-1’s design and engineering department.

Since the A-1 TDTP began a few years ago, 15 designers have graduated from three classes and today, 11 of those designers remain on staff. The fourth program this spring brought in over 80 candidates. A-1 aims to double the number of individuals who complete the course and hire at least 10 into full-time positions.

Pictured above (left to right) is A-1’s TDTP Fall 2015 class: Jason Wampler, Anthony Tombo (P.E., S.E., S.E.B.C. Engineer), Eduardo Cardoso and Mark Kutz. 

Results Justify the Extra Effort

Design manager Travis White, one of five staff members from A-1 involved in the training program, has been involved in the process from the start and believes the time invested in recruiting, screening and training candidates is well worth it. A-1 posts weekly on their Facebook page, advertises in local media and participates in career fairs at local two-year and four-year educational institutions to get the word out about their program. They chose to hold this year’s program in mid-June so they could capture the graduating classes from high schools and community colleges. Luis Arrarte, HR Director with A-1 has been working closely with the head of engineering at a university in Boca, Florida. As a result of the TDTP, the university is adding to their structural engineering curriculum, raising awareness for the industry early on for students.

There’s also a commitment of staff time when working designers serve as mentors. “We see that the work on the production floor will slow down about 30% for the first 30 days when a senior designer is away from his or her work and devotes time mentoring the new employee. However, if the fit is right, then it’s worth the time invested in the long run,” explained White. 

Personality, aptitude and an open mind are the essentials; design skills will follow. “It’s about seeing if the fit is right,” White iterates. The science-based assessment tests we use in the program help us see if we have the right personality fit into the right seats. If we have the right canvas on which to work, then we can definitely train the candidates to be truss designers,” said White.

Interested in more on this topic? Look back to the December 2014 issue for more details on how A-1 developed their designer training program.

About the Author: Lena Giakoumopoulos joined the SBCA membership development team in 2014 and also focuses on workforce development and other management committee initiatives. She holds a masters degree in global marketing and has experience writing for newsletters, manuals, brochures and websites.

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