The 'power' of learning inspired this Steelworker

Scott Penman had one vision: he wanted to be an electrician. He wanted to be an electrician so bad at Sumitomo Rubber in Buffalo, he went after it.

The blue collar way.

A tire builder for more than 13 years at the plant, the determined Penman went after his dream like he was punching the work clock.

The USW Local 135L member completed two phases of electrician’s school – 272 hours total – and earned two certificates. He applied and landed an open electrician’s job at Sumitomo Rubber – increasing his pay by $12 an hour.

“You don’t have to go to Harvard. You can go to a tech school. All you need is that piece of paper,” Penman said.

It was far from easy, though. Penman said he was a tire builder during the week, got off at 11 p.m. each shift, and was up at 5:30 a.m. every Saturday to drive more than an hour each way for the in-person classes. The eight-hour-plus day lasted for more than a year-and-a-half. On top of that, he also attended online classes for MTE Prep.

“I didn’t pass the practical portion of the (Ramsay) test the first time, so I went back at it even harder; I knew there was no turning back,” Penman said. “I had over 13 years at the mill and wanted to be an electrician so bad. Anybody can take the classes through ICD, but you have to be determined to pass the tests.”

Penman said the “Live and Online” classes through Career Development with instructor Joe Hynek were informative and instrumental in helping him become an industrial electrician. That class originates from the USW/ArcelorMittal-JobLink program but any ICD participants can take part in the class via the streaming option.

The 13-week MTE course was all online, but Penman said being able to pause, rewind, and understand concepts before moving on were a huge part of his success. He learned everything from industrial electrical maintenance and troubleshooting to AC/DC circuits and motors to PCLs and print reading.

“Online classes used to get a raw deal, but now it’s like, ‘Wow. These are dynamite,’” Penman said. “I can’t say enough about the instructor (Joe Hynek). He was so easy to listen to and taught you the things you needed to know to pass the test. He has a dry sense of humor like me and was so easy to connect with.”

Hynek, a retired Steelworker, spent 30 years USW Local 1010 in East Chicago, Indiana. Once he hung up his work boots, he began teaching Career Development classes.

“My first class (around 2011) had seven students and only two of them passed the (Ramsay) test. A couple missed by two or three questions, but that’s not a good batting average for me,” Hynek said. “So I decided to go take the test myself. I just wanted to see what was on it. I wanted to know what I needed to emphasize and how I could relate to the students.”

As for Penman’s success, Hynek couldn’t be happier for his former pupil.

“Some of these people are laborers or working a lower-grade job at the mill and to hear about the accomplishment really gives you such a good feeling,” Hynek said. “They are working for a better (wage) scale and really trying to better themselves. That’s why I love the Career Development program.”

Penman said he already had an associate’s degree in electrical technology dating back 25 years, but never used it. Once he started going to classes again he noticed stuff he had “in the back of his brain” started coming back to him.

“I knew about ICD, but I didn’t know it could help better your career through education like this,” Penman said. “I’ll probably never leave (Sumitomo), but if I do I know I have those certificates in my pocket and I have ‘electrician’ on my resume.”

Penman, 56, couldn’t say enough great things about Mary Ennis, the ICD coordinator, for Local 135L in Buffalo.

“Mary was godly; she researched everything for me and got the ball rolling,” Penman said. “She went to the depths for me. I’ve thanked her a million times with texts or calls. She even helped me do my resume and cover letter when I applied for (the electrician’s) job.

“I still remember stopping my (tire) machine, going outside and calling Mary (with the good news). That day changed my life and she was a big part of it.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 31 August / 1 Comments
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Online bachelor's degree in sight for this Steelworker

Nick Eland calls it the “20-year-some plan”.

But at least he has a plan.

The Local 1299 member and veteran Steelworker says it feels like he’s been working on his bachelor’s degree forever.

“Life gets in the way, but this ICD benefit has been a difference maker for me personally,” Eland said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen here (at U.S. Steel-Great Lakes).

“Right now it’s a safety net, but at least I’ve got a net.”

Eland works full-time at the mill, is married with three kids, and has been working on his degree online for over three years. His goal is to have his bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health from Columbia Southern University done this year.

Time management is obviously one of his strengths.

“It was manageable until COVID, but then you have three kids all at home and we’re all doing virtual learning,” said Eland, who works in emergency services.

Eland is only 40 and knows the closing of the plant has made national headlines. However, he has a backup plan just in case, thanks to utilizing his ICD benefit.

“To be honest, without ICD I wouldn’t have went to school,” Eland said. “It’s just too expensive and I have three kids and a wife to support. As a parent, kids come first and we come second. But since we don’t know what’s going on here at the mill, a lot of other people are taking advantage of it.”

Eland also wanted to thank Kevin Mahoney, his Career Development coordinator, for pushing the benefit to the members and providing plenty of useful information during such tough times at Local 1299.

“None of us want to start over,” Eland said. “I like my job and we have great benefits, but it’s really a wait-and-see time for us.

“It’s nice knowing I’ll have my degree, though, if something does happen to my job.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 14 August / 0 Comments
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Steelworker's added skill comes "From the Heart"

The Institute for Career Development continues its national video series showcasing how learning the art of woodworking has helped a laidoff Steelworker provide for his family during some difficult times.

Rashon Davis, a member of USW Local 5133, used his ICD benefit to acquire a degree, a real estate license and learn the skill of pen-making. He has turned his skill into a profitable side business.

Please enjoy our latest video from one of the USW’s greatest benefits.


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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 10 August / 1 Comments
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Steelworker adds a skill during pandemic layoff

Nick Zimmerman migrated from Wisconsin to Northwest Indiana looking to provide for his family.

He wanted to be a Steelworker.

“My wife (Andrea) had her father and brother working at the steel mills, so she knew the lifestyle and how the job could provide for a family,” Zimmerman said.

Then the COVID-10 pandemic hit, and it hit Zimmerman hard. With only two years in at USW Local 1010 in East Chicago, Ind., the crane operator was laid off.

That’s when he took advantage of his ICD benefit.

“I had taken some wood-working classes and other stuff, but I heard how you could get a CDL through the (Career Development) program,” Zimmerman said.

The 38-year-old Steelworker has a family to provide for, including a 10-month-old son. He heard through a co-worker that he might be able to get called back quicker if he had his CDL and get into the transportation department at the mill.

Zimmerman earned his CDL in late June and had two offers from local trucking companies. The good news is he got called back to his job at the mill on July 6. The silver lining? He’s got the CDL license in his back pocket, thanks to his ICD benefit, and now has the skills in hand to hopefully land a spot in transportation at the mill eventually.

 “It’s a great program,” Zimmerman said of Career Development. “I’m glad it’s there for you, especially when you need it.

“Times are tough for a lot of people right now and this (program) gives you some hope.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 8 July / 2 Comments
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Tino Scholarship extended

Is ICD part of your benefit? Then the Tino Fulimeni scholarship is, too!

In 2019, the Institute for Career Development awarded eight scholarships for $1,000 each to the children or grandchildren of Steelworkers.

Tino Fulimeni was a lifelong Steelworker who rose to Special Assistant to former USW President George Becker. Tino was a huge advocate of the Career Development Program. He strongly believed in the education of Steelworkers. The Institute for Career Development scholarship is a tribute to Tino and all he stood and fought for.

To date, the Tino Fulmeni Memorial Scholarship Fund has awarded 120 scholarships in the amount of $108,800.

All you have to do is apply at . The deadline has been extended to October 31, 2020.

Remember, learning is your – and your children or grandchildren’s – benefit for life!

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 2 July / 0 Comments
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ICD benefit helping members after Goodyear-Gadsden closing

Joel Ingram was seven weeks away from full retirement at Goodyear in Gadsden, Alabama. Close friend and fellow electrician, Brian Smith, had 25 years in at the tire plant when it closed its doors.

The USW Local 12L members needed a safety net, so they utilized their ICD benefit.

Ingram recruited six other members and spearheaded an HVAC course for Local 12L. The students are driving over an hour two nights a week to Birmingham to learn about heating and cooling with instructor Brian Byrom. It’s a condensed class, which Ingram calls a “crash course” in HVAC.

“I saw an ad about our ICD benefit and took advantage of it,” said Ingram, who had 27 years in at the Gadsden plant. “The course has been challenging and tough, but I knew I had to do something. You have members coming out of here with no trade or skills. You have to have a backup plan.”

Ingram just found a job at the Honda Lincoln Assembly Plant – an hour drive away – and says putting “HVAC experience on my resume” might have helped get him in the door.

“I saw (this plant closing) coming the last couple of years,” Ingram said. “I didn’t want to be left with nothing. You never can be smart enough.

“If I could tell anybody something about ICD – use your benefit. Take advantage of it.”

Smith, meanwhile, has been on the ICD’s Local Joint Committee for 16 years in Gadsden. The committee is comprised of both union and company staff to make local decisions on how the program is used. Smith, pictured above with his wife Janet, admits he never took a class through ICD until he had to.

“I didn’t get on the ICD board for myself, but for everybody else,” Smith said. “I’m so glad I did this HVAC class. It’s really a fulfillment thing and something else to put on that resume.

“ICD has been a huge benefit,” Smith continued. “It has given a ton of our Gadsden members a chance to go to school, get degrees, and go on to do other things.”

The 16-week HVAC course runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 p.m. It’s almost an hour-and-a-half drive one way for Smith and the other seven Gadsden members.

“I told the guys once we finish this they can’t take it away from us, like the closing of the plant," Smith said. "That’s why ICD was started to help the members in times of need.

“It’s given us something to turn to in desperate times.”


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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 10 June / 0 Comments
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Let's hear about your ICD benefit

Meet Dennis Chandler, an ICD music instructor, who has a passion for teaching. His enthusiasm is contagious to the USW Local 979 members in Cleveland. Just watch “and listen” for yourself.

Dennis truly believes in what the ICD benefit can do not only for professional growth, but also personal gains.

Learning is truly music to the ears!

Please enjoy our latest video from one of the USW’s greatest benefits.

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 10 June / 0 Comments
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ICD Benefit Boosts Laid-Off Steelworker

Rashon Davis knows the day well. November 8, 2019. After 18 years at U.S. Steel-East Chicago Tin he was laid off. The USW Local 5133 member is still waiting for a call back to be transferred to Gary Works or Midwest Steel.

Some people would feel sorry for themselves. But not Davis. He got busy trying to put food on the table for his family in other ways – and thanks to utilizing the ICD benefit he created his own pen business.

“Let’s just say it was a good Christmas for us -- because I took my talent and craft using the woodworking classes (at USW Local 6787 in Burns Harbor, Indiana) and started my own business,” Davis explained. “When you’re selling pens for $50-$60 each the money comes in pretty handy.”

The business – From the Heart Woodworking – is keeping Davis and his family afloat while he waits on a call back to the steel mill.

The name “From the Heart Woodworking” comes from his son, Graham, who was born with a heart defect and died at 2 years old.

“We were in Chicago every day dealing with heart doctors, so the name just made sense to me,” Davis explained. “We gave out a lot of pens as gifts and it just seemed right because all the work is coming from the heart. Making pens was great therapy for me during a really hard time.”

Davis, a Gary, Indiana native, credits ICD instructor John Malyj for motivating him to take his craft to another level and start up his own business. He started by buying a “cheap” lathe for his garage and then began to accumulate more tools for the job.

“Sell a pen, buy a tool, sell a pen buy another tool,” Davis explained. “We sort of got into business by accident. I had to justify spending the money for tools and equipment with my wife (Quiana) because she was very supportive, but it was getting to be an expensive hobby.”

Davis has become so busy with his Etsy business he’s recruited Quiana to help. She’s just as involved with the pen making as he is. They now have their own Facebook page and have a vast customer and client base.

Davis is definitely an advocate of the ICD program. He used the tuition assistance program to earn his bachelor’s degree in human resources from Purdue University and also picked up a Real Estate license with the help of the ICD benefit.

“I can’t tell you enough about what a wonderful program ICD is,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for the knowledge I acquired through the benefit.

“I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact they can make money outside of their jobs and be productive. This was supposed to be a hobby and something fun for me to do, but I’ve made this work for me and my family.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 28 January / 2 Comments
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ICD Means Success for this Steelworker

USW Local 979 member Angie Lee talks about her success with ICD. The Cleveland Steelworker has used the ICD benefit to better herself at work and at home. She’s taken advantage of classes to pass the Ramsey test, get into the MTE program, and learn HVAC skills. Lee is living proof that anything is possible by utilizing the ICD benefit.

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 21 January / 0 Comments
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Duct (Work) Dynasty

Mike McLure thought he knew plenty about installing duct work. Then he took an ICD sheet metal class with Fran Arabia, the USW/ATI Safety, Health & Environmental Coordinator, and really learned something.

“I told Fran I wish I had taken the class years ago,” said McLure, an electric tech at ATI Local 1196 in Brackenridge, Pa. “I had to go back in my basement and fix all kinds of stuff. Maybe it wasn’t stuff the normal eye could see, but I knew it wasn’t right.

“It just made me so much more confident in what I was doing.”

McLure, who has worked at ATI for 13 years, said after gaining knowledge in the seven-session ICD customized class, he went back into his basement and couldn’t believe the things that needed fixed.

“I fixed corners after Fran showed me how,” McLure said. “Duct work is different – it’s definitely a different beast – and I struggled. After the classes I was like, ‘Wow, this job could have went so much smoother.’”

The funny thing is, McLure never really took advantage of the ICD benefit and fell into the class by accident.

“I happened to run into Fran and we got to talking about his sheet metal class and I said, ‘You’re doing what? Put me down for it,’” McLure explained. “It was just great timing and a little luck.

“I still can’t believe how valuable the class was.”

Arabia is passionate about HVAC training and believes strongly in the ICD program.

“I take the students through my 35 years of knowledge in residential, commercial and steel mill industrial experiences,” he said. “By the end of the class they are marketable in the trades, if ever needed.

“And most importantly, they are able to work in their home for themselves, or to give a hand to family and friends.”

McLure’s success story didn’t just start at the mill, either. He actually was a former NBC union cameraman who specialized in aerial footage. He also did work for the Golf Channel in helicopters and blimps, but his claim to fame is the work he did for NBC Sports at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece where his crew won an Emmy for the opening ceremonies.

“We spent 31 days there,” McLure said. “Definitely great memories.”

McLure said the wear and tear of travel – and the influx of drones – really made him start thinking about changing careers. He said he saw the writing on the wall around 2006 and ended up landing a job at ATI. He’s also turned his basement – with the duct work he’s now proud of – into a recording studio where he plays guitar and enjoys time with his wife of 10 years, Laura.

“I’m new to ICD, but I’ll tell you when you look at the cost of education and the benefit, it’s so valuable,” he said. “I just told Fran I wish I took advantage of it 10 years ago. Now I see what you can get out of it.”

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  • Posted by bwaddle / Posted on 12 December / 0 Comments
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