"One of the good things about apprenticeship is you have to perform. And if you perform, you move forward," says Myers.
The students at IUOE are definitely learning far more than how to tighten a few nuts and bolts. While Ray Lambert waits for his class to start, Phil Wildemann, a first-year apprenticeship instructor, explains boiler maintenance to 19 men in jeans and work shirts. The lesson ranges from the chemistry of natural gas to how to regulate fuel pressure in a boiler, with Powerpoint presentations illustrating the complex machinery involved in heating a building.
Joining the program can mean a lifetime of sitting in these lessons. As more and more buildings go green, equipment is changing, meaning that workers need to continue their education long after the apprenticeship program is over. Lambert points to his dad, a maintenance supervisor at North Carolina State University and a former apprentice himself.
"Green is now the thing. My dad's still taking classes now," he says. "This is just the beginning."