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Quick Guide: Training for Cold-Formed Steel Framers

Cold-formed steel framers have access to a wide variety of training options, including vocational school curriculums, classes, seminars, and more.

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Training for cold-formed steel (CFS) framers has been available for decades — and in a wide variety of formats. Training options include high school shop classes, union apprenticeship programs, and non-union training providers. And behind just about every program stands an organization committed to enabling the widespread use of steel: the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA).

“We’re not about setting up stand-alone training programs,” said Maribeth Rizzuto, SFA’s Director of Education and Sustainable Construction. “We’re about incorporating cold-formed steel framing into existing programs. We’ve had a lot of success.”

Over the years, SFA has partnered with several groups to provide training to CFS framers:

High schools and vocational schools

SFA’s cold-formed steel framing curriculum was adopted in whole or in part by high schools and vocational schools throughout North America.

According to Rizzuto, the CFS training curriculum was put together in the early 1990s for high school and vocational school shops and building trades programs. The CFS training curriculum touches on all aspects of CFS framing, including what it is, how it’s cut, and how it’s joined.

“As time went on, we found that most schools didn’t have the means to take our entire curriculum and drop it into their programs,” Rizzuto said. “Some instructors wanted an introduction to cold-formed steel in their classes. Others wanted to show their students how to build non-load bearing walls. They just wanted sections of our national curriculum.”

Over time, Rizzuto explained, SFA has paid less attention to distributing its entire CFS framing curriculum and more to developing practical guides and worksheets, such as A Builder’s Guide to Steel Frame Construction, How to Build Interior Walls with Steel, and How To Use The Right Tools for Steel Framing.

“Our guides include text and illustrations that demonstrate how cold-formed steel framing is similar to other framing types, with the same principles of installation, helping builders see how easy it is to work with cold-formed steel framing,” Rizzuto said.

United Brotherhood of Carpenters

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) provides training in both classroom and hands-on settings at training centers across North America.

“The United Brotherhood of Carpenters is active in cold-formed steel framing training,” Rizzuto said. “They run strong programs.”

The UBC International Training Center (ITC) in Las Vegas, Nevada, is by far the union’s largest and most prominent facility. The 14-acre campus near McCarran Airport first opened in 2001. In 2015, UBC completed Phase Five of the complex, expanding the facility to more than 1.2 million square feet, 70 classrooms, and 300 guest rooms. The Carpenters International Training Fund and its affiliated training programs invest more than $200 million per year in member education.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done with cold-formed steel framing in their training centers,” Rizzuto said.

SkillsUSA

Cold-formed steel framing has been a part of SkillsUSA for more than two decades. Used in both the one-day carpentry contest and two-day TeamWorks competition, CFS framing plays a vital role in the ongoing education of tomorrow’s labor force.

SkillsUSA brings together high school and post-high school young people pursuing careers in the building trades. Each year, the organization sponsors the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It’s like a construction Olympics,” Rizzuto explained. “The students have a couple of days to put together a specific project, and for the last 20 years, cold-formed steel framing has been a part of those projects.”

The SkillsUSA Carpentry Blueprint, for example, covers standards, competencies, and tools associated with CFS framing. Instructors direct students to such blueprints during shop and carpentry classes. In Rizzuto’s opinion, SkillsUSA has helped spread CFS framing training in a direct way.

Ten years ago, the incoming contestants had little or no prior experience with CFS framing. Today, more than half the contestants come into the competition with a working knowledge of framing with CFS.

“An instructor in high school or post-secondary education is not going to send his students somewhere without the appropriate training to compete,” Rizzuto said.

Associated Builders and Contractors

Another vehicle for CFS education came through SFA’s participation in the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Craft Championships. “Our involvement with ABC came through the relationships we built at SkillsUSA,” Rizzuto said. “It was another excellent venue to deliver our training and messages. With the help of our members, we were able to supply the training resources and tools to create excellent projects for the competition. This led to our involvement with their training vehicle, NCCER.”

National Center for Construction Education and Research

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) provides open-shop craft professionals with training at more than 4,000 NCCER-accredited locations across the United States. The NCCER Registry System is an online database that allows participants to provide easy verification of their training to employers.

Rizzuto has been involved with NCCER as a technical advisor to its carpentry training modules. These modules include instruction on CFS framing.

Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI)

More than 10 years ago, SFA co-developed a CFS training program with AWCI called Steel—Doing It Right®. The two-day seminar is aimed at framers, foremen, superintendents, architects, and others who work with steel in design and construction. The event presents the construction methods associated with CFS load-bearing wall assemblies, interior wall systems framing, roof systems floor assemblies, and more.

Don Allen, P.E, LEED A.P., an internationally known expert on CFS, Director of Engineering at Super Stud Building Products Inc., and a Steel—Doing It Right® instructor, said that the program is especially suited to training experienced CFS framers.

Decades of CFS training

In addition to the programs mentioned, SFA has conducted STUD University, Steel University for vocational building trades instructors, and countless other seminars. STUD University is a two-day session that provides technology transfer via discussion, demonstration, and hands-on experience on a mini-cold-formed steel framing project using state-of-the-art industry tools. It is specifically designed for architects, builders, contractors, engineers, building inspectors, and building trades instructors.

Rizzuto, who has been in the CFS industry for more than two decades, said SFA has run more than 5,800 programs cooperatively with many different groups, and its educational resources are available to anyone who wants to make good use of them. The programs have been successful.

“I think many of the best installers have come out of traditional framing systems,” Rizzuto said. “We often deal with framers who’ve made the transition from wood to cold-formed steel framing and have never looked back.”

For more information on the benefits of CFS and the efficiencies it can provide in your next building project, contact us.

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