Kauai Apprenticeship Day and Career Fair launches today

LIHUE — Allan Los Banos believes in training up-and-coming masons and plasterers.

“When you come back and you see them as foremen, and they’re running crews, you feel really good,” said Los Banos, director of training for the Hawaii Masters and Plasterers Training Program. “When I check the jobs out, they’re doing excellent work.”

Being an apprentice made Zach Bonilla a man.

“Before the apprenticeship program, I was just a kid doing kid stuff,” said Bonilla, plasterers apprentice coordinator for the Hawaii Masters and Plasterers Training Program. “After the program, I learned about responsibility.”

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Kauai Apprenticeship Day and Career Fair will be part of the celebration. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon today at Kauai Community College, Office of Continuing Education and Training.

“Apprenticeship programs provide a great opportunity for employees to improve their skills and earning capacity, as well as provide improved services to their customers,” said George Costa Kauai County Economic Development director.

At the end of October, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Hawaii State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations $1.5 million to expand its registered apprenticeship programs by partnering with high-growth businesses and industries to train and produce skilled workers. In Hawaii, there are 40 officially recognized organizations in the construction trades and 13 in nonconstruction trades with apprenticeship programs, Costa said.

State and county officials are unsure how the $1.5 million award will be distributed or used to expand registered apprenticeship programs.

However, key outcomes expected include expanding employer networks and to increase the number of low-income and underrepresented population through career awareness, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships, according to state officials.

Target populations include low-income, underrepresented populations such as women, veterans, Native Hawaiians, and persons of disabilities.

KCC offers five registered apprenticeship programs in partnership with the trades that are recognized by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: electricians, roofers, sheet metal, laborers and masons.

“The Kauai Apprenticeship Day and Career Fair highlights the important role that apprenticeship programs play in developing a skilled workforce, and the positive impact they have on our economy,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. “I encourage students, parents, and school and job counselors to attend the fair and check out the great opportunities offered by the trades.”

In the 20 years Los Banos has been with the training program, he said about 400 tradespeople graduated.

“When you’re looking at the trades program, you want the key here to be a level of professionality,” he said. “When someone is putting up a cement structure (for example), you want to make sure it’s sound and following proper processes, proper techniques.”

Los Banos’ program handles four trades: cement finishers, plasterers, ceramic tile setters and block masons.

For the Hawaii Masters and Plasterers Training Program, apprentices must complete over 8,000 hours that includes classroom-related type of training as well as on-the-job training.

“It’s a gradual process because there’s so much of it to learn,” he said. “ It’s about four years of steady work to complete. … As you learn, you progress in your wages.”

The Kauai Workforce Development Board is working with Kauai Community College to expand training offerings at KCC and to help local businesses start their own apprenticeship programs, Costa said.

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