Finding and training skilled workers to help address the industry's labor shortage is a top priority for the United Association, UA General President Bill Hite told members of the Union-Affiliated Contractors at its recent Unity Meeting in Longboat Key, Fla.

UA locals will be increasing the number of apprentice classes offered, and will be “thinking outside the box” to recruit people with special skills, such as welding. The UA is also contacting various welding schools, and has started its own welder qualifications to fill demand.

Hite also discussed Hurricane Katrina relief efforts ($1.2 million in UA member donations to aid affected members), a focus on legislation that benefits UA members, a banking initiative to bring UA members jobs building banks all over the country, and increasing UA market share to gain union construction jobs in several areas of the country.

Also speaking at the meeting were attorney James Estabrook, who facilitated a roundtable discussion on trustee responsibilities and duties, Dr. Larry Whitworth, who conducted a seminar on building supervisory skills, and Kirk Alter, who led sessions on getting to the bottom line with customers.

The UAC elected Tom Gent of GRP Mechanical Co. (Bethalto, Ill.) as chairman, and Robert Melko of Bishop Plumbing & Heating (Des Plaines, Ill.) as vice chair.

The next UAC Unity Meeting is scheduled for next spring in St. Louis.