Sheet metal school going above, beyond to protect students

Posted at 2:04 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 10:34:25-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Almost everyone's job has changed in some way because of the pandemic. Sheet metal workers are no different. There's a lot of work and a lot of learning involved: a stressful combination.

13 Action News anchor Tricia Kean shows how their union is helping them rebound during tough times.

"Palace Station had an add-on, the Palms, I was there. I was a part of both of those projects," said Antonio Saunders, a third-year apprentice at Local Union 88.

During the day he's working in the field, shadowing a mentor.


"I'm learning how to install ductwork... how to install it, how air flows through it, supply and return," said Saunders.

At night he's learning his craft in the classroom. But the pandemic is changing the way things are done.


"I would say before the pandemic it was a lot faster. Now it's social distancing. So in construction, you might be working with three or four guys. Now it's down to just mainly two. It just takes a little longer. But we're getting used to it," said Saunders.

Reminders are all over the walls at Local 88. Signs reminding everyone to wear a mask, stay separated and keep their hands clean. But protections put in place for members, go well beyond social distancing.


"If somebody seems depressed or you see changes in people, you try to let them know that there is help available. We try to be the first responders," said training director Ed Abraham.

He knows anxiety is high these days. In fact, The CDC says the suicide rate in the construction industry is four times the national average. A fact he says he knows all too well.

In his more than three decades in the business, Abraham has lost one person to suicide, and that's one too many. That's why the union has a program in place to help members and their families.


"We need to do anything we can to protect our members, the community and their families," said Abraham.

That includes a peer-trained support network, plus substance use and suicide prevention contacts.

"Anything can come up and we want to make sure that they have somebody to reach out to," said Abraham.


These are all measures you hope never to need to be used. But it's reassuring for members like Antonio, to know they're there.

"So I can come here or I can make a call to someone and know that they're there for me and my family at any given time. It's a wonderful feeling," said Saunders.