Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Apprentice program is back - and better

The popular union apprenticeship program that had served 6,000 students a semester before getting booted from the College of Southern Nevada by its outgoing president will return for the new school year , stronger and bigger than ever.

The labor training program, which had inexplicably fallen out of favor with lame-duck President Richard Carpenter, will restart this month, more firmly seated within the school curriculum and able to introduce more trades to more students, according to memorandums of understanding signed by both sides.

The new pacts were struck after Carpenter left for a new job in Texas and college and union officials reconciled at the urging of regents and Jim Rogers, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

"This agreement gives our apprentices the attention they deserve," said Madison Burnett, president of the Southern Nevada Western Apprenticeship Coordinators Association and training director for the electrician s union. "We're looking forward to a productive and fruitful partnership with the College of Southern Nevada. This will be a great benefit to our students."

The rocky relationship between the college and labor imploded in June when Carpenter unilaterally and suddenly ended the program even though it was a significant moneymaker for the college. Rogers, regents, interim President Michael Richards and interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Carlos Campo have spent the past month patching up the rift with Burnett, AFL-CIO Secretary - Treasurer Danny Thompson and other union leaders. The college delivered signed agreements to union directors Tuesday.

The agreements resolve the personnel and proprietary curriculum issues that led to a parting of the ways, Richards and Campo said.

"Everyone worked really hard to restore this relationship," Richards said of the unions, regents and college officials. "It was a major achievement in problem solving and in the end it does nothing but benefit students."

The college has agreed to elevate the program's status at the college and create a separate department for the union apprenticeship program within the office of the vice president of academic affairs.

Union directors will work with Darren Divine, the new associate vice president of academic affairs, instead of Kay Moormann, dean of workforce and economic development, with whom they had clashed. The college employees with whom the unions had worked well, Al Daniels and Deana Zelenik, are back in charge of the program.

The agreements also stipulate that although the college will review the apprenticeship coursework to ensure it meets accreditation standards, the curriculum belongs to the unions, and that all union materials will be returned to them. Union officials were outraged in June to learn that curriculum materials they had developed were removed from Zelenik's office - an attempt by the college, they thought, to copy the material s for its own use.

The memorandum s further expand the college's support for the apprentices in the program, improving advising and counseling services to help students earn an associate's degree and offering students any necessary classes in math, literacy and English as a second language.

Most important , CSN will work with the unions to help apprentices earn associate's degrees and advance to Nevada State College for bachelor's degrees.

"The whole idea is to accelerate the training of these students so they can enter the workforce and contribute positively to their community," Richards said.

All the financial arrangements remain as before: The unions will pay the tuition of students for CSN credit courses and CSN will reimburse the unions for their costs in operating those courses. The unions provide the journeyman instructors, facilities, curriculum and books for the program.

Individual unions still need to sign the new contract, but as a whole they have voted to move forward with the agreements, Burnett said.

With the changes, as many as seven more unions are looking to sign agreements with the college, potentially expanding the training offerings from 12 to 19, Campo and Burnett said. Students can now pick from several trades, including plumbing, electrical, carpentry and sheet metal.

Regents said Wednesday they were relieved the union apprenticeship program was back on track, which they wouldn't have thought possible a month ago.

"It's going to be a much better program in the end," Regent s Chairman Michael Wixom said. "I think everyone has looked at this as an opportunity to improve the program , and that speaks very well of everyone involved."