Training and Education

Don Procter

September 2007

ISCA Expanding Training Center
Call it a case of the rich getting richer. The Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario, which boasts having the biggest drywall training center in North America, is about to get a whole lot bigger.

Hugh Laird, executive director of ISCA, says plans call for a 26,000 square foot building to be erected next to the association’s fanciful $5.5 million, 56,000 square foot building, which opened in 2006 in Woodbridge, a suburb of Toronto.

Why a second building? The simple answer is, "We’re full up,” Laird explains.

Last year, when ISCA’s new center opened, officials boasted that it had the capacity for training up to 30 drywall mechanics and 22 drywall finishers every two months, and offered plenty of space for other trades, particularly exterior insulation and finish systems apprentices.

ISCA officials might have underestimated how popular some of its courses would be, but there are other reasons fueling the need for more training space. New government legislation requires mold abatement specialists to be trained and certified. That is training ISCA is equipped to do, Laird says.

Moreover, a large percentage of the work force in drywall and drywall-related fields has been made up of illegal immigrants.

"But now that they have to be legitimized, we need space to train them,” Laird points out.

The new training facility could be under construction before the year’s end. It will take about a year to complete at a cost between $3.5 million and $4 million. The land costs an additional $1 million.

Remarkably, ISCA is getting no funding aid from the government to put up the new building; it is being financed by ISCA’s membership.

"At the last collective agreement (May 1, 2007), we anticipated this building so we had to boost up our cents per hour (charges to members),” Laird says.

Estimator Courses Under Way
Meanwhile, the first classes of the ISCA Training Institute for Drywall Estimators in Toronto got off the ground this month. Judging by how far away some of the students have come (Florida and Texas), the two classes could well be the only ones of this type in North America.

While most of the students are Ontarians, the courses have attracted Americans. "It’s been surprising that we have been getting a better response from Americans than we have from other provinces in Canada,” says Laird. "America is just like Canada, but there is no place there that puts on a course like this.”

Students are offered two courses: a one-week 42-hour residential estimating class and a one-week commercial estimating class. Graduates will be able to read specification documents related to drywall and understand what and how much drywall materials will be required for a job. They will also be able to schedule quantities for final pricing. In the commercial estimating course EIFS materials will also be covered. The courses are taught by certified estimators.

Laird says depending on the popularity of the first courses, ISCA hopes to follow up with a few more this year. There are 16 to 20 students in each class. He’s betting on the program taking off because few estimators in North America have access to any in-class training specific to the drywall trade.

Marketing the program through brochures and ads in trade journals will cost about $40,000 this year. A "microsite” linked through ISCA’s Web site and others related to the program is now up and running.

Tuition is $500 Canadian for Ontarians and $1,200 for out-of-province and American students.

About the Author
Don Procter is free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.