Sprinkler Fitters U.A. Local 709

"...our retention rates have increased dramatically.”
Sprinkler Fitters U.A. Local 709, located in Los Angeles, is an organization of 1000+ Union journeypersons, apprentices, and retirees, who work in the specialized field of fire suppression. They pride themselves on providing the best-trained and best-qualified sprinkler fitters in all aspects of fire protection. The 709 depends on its apprentice training program to develop new members and an ongoing supply of expert craftsmen. Their intensive five-year program combines 40-hour weeks of on-the-job training with a series of increasingly complex courses that shape unskilled workers into seasoned journeypersons. Industry businesses have come to rely on the apprentice program to deliver a stock of skilled workers, making hiring decisions based on the quality of candidates the program turns out. These guys are a hot commodity.

...our retention rates have increased dramatically.

Robin Schledorn, Director of Training

The Challenge

The highly sought after program has only 60 openings available every two years and receives up to 400 applicants, according to Robin Schledorn, Director of Training. It’s important to be selective because the training requires years of commitment and considerable cognitive ability. So, Sprinkler Fitters has to focus on the best-fit candidates and wash away the unqualified ones. For years the program relied on the state of California to provide an assessment for unions, but when that was discontinued, they had no way to qualitatively evaluate candidates. Now they really had a fire to put out... “It was a big scary problem,” Schledorn says. “In construction, math is a big part of everything we do. You have to be able to convert fractions to decimals, read plans, cut materials. It’s important that candidates have the skills to do that.”

The Solution

As part of a union, Sprinkler Fitters requires state approval for any tests used as an evaluation tool. Given the rigorous validation and research behind all Wonderlic assessments, it’s no surprise that Schledorn found that the Wonderlic fit the bill.  “The State of California approved the test and inserted it into our standards, authorizing us to use the test as part of our application process.” Schledorn immediately began using the test to measure candidates’ basic math and verbal skills based on specific position requirements.

The Results

The Local 709 program is now safe and sound. Wonderlic test scores instantly tell Schledorn whether applicants have the skills to succeed. In fact, assessment results now count for 50% of the overall rating that determines who is accepted. The other 50% is based on rankings given during a structured interview - where candidates are rated on dependability, reliability, and commitment. The combined scores allow Sprinkler Fitters to make objective, effective selections. And bonus, Schledorn finds the Wonderlic assessment to be much easier and more useful than that old state test.

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