MANCHESTER — When Tracey Loftis began his apprenticeship with the carpenters’ union, he had to commute more than an hour from home in Manchester to a carpenters training facility in Millbury, Mass., just south of Worcester.
With the opening of a new carpenters training facility in Manchester on Saturday, New Hampshire carpenters like Loftis can train closer to home.
“If this was here, it definitely would have made a big difference,” Loftis said of the new facility.
Loftis, now just days from the end of his four-year apprenticeship, helped build the new facility with other apprentice carpenters under the supervision of experienced journeymen carpenters. As he looked around the building, Loftis said, he felt pride in his work and pride as a union member.
About 200 people, carpenters and their families, attended the opening. In a bright open room, they listened as union leaders celebrated the facility.
Several elected officials attended to congratulate the union on opening the new building. The Manchester training facility will open more doors to jobs with good pay, they said, and help assure New Hampshire has enough skilled workers.
“Unions are all about making sure people have access to the middle class,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at the opening. “That’s what this training center is really all about.”
The training center replaces a much-smaller facility in Manchester. It doubles the number of classrooms and quadrupled the shop training space, according to a news release from the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.
The union bought the building on Candia Road in 2017, and pursued an aggressive construction schedule to renovate it in time to begin classes in January 2020.
“Countless hours, and a lot of hard work were involved,” said Matthew Attarian, an instructor at the school who supervised apprentices like Loftis as they renovated the building.
Attarian’s father, Marc Attarian, is a technical coordinator and will oversee the Manchester operation.
“This is a great thing for the young apprentices,” he said. A facility in Manchester will make it easier for nearby residents to explore the career at one of the monthly information sessions. He said the union takes applicants as young as 18, but he also sees a lot of people who are changing careers later in life. He thinks an apprenticeship is an attractive option, because tuition is paid for by the union and apprentices earn a wage as they learn. Still, he said, it’s hard to attract enough people to what can be a hard job.
“Probably like most companies now we can’t find good people who want to do this,” Marc Attarian said. “We’re definitely looking for anybody who wants to give it a shot.”
New England Carpenters Apprenticeship Training Fund President Richard Petty said he hoped the more convenient training center will encourage more workers to train as carpenters— and encourage experienced carpenters to come back to hone their skills.
“That’s what puts us above the non-union, is the training and education,” Petty said. With the new facility, he said, New Hampshire carpenters have access to the same programs as carpenters in Boston and New York.
When Lance Mazzarello decided to change careers to become a carpenter, he made the two-and-a-half hour drive for the information session in Millbury, Mass.
He said he hopes the new facility will make it easier for New Hampshire workers to take that first step toward a job that could afford them a middle-class life.
“We’re opening up doors,” Mazzarello said. “It’s not just buildings we’re building. We build lives here.”