Tag Archives: Mohawk Ironworkers

Mohawk Ironworkers: Training for Steel

How does someone become an ironworker? It is not like it was decades ago; nowadays you need considerable formal training.

Episode 4 of Mohawk Ironworkers gives us the inside scoop on how to become an ironworker. Elder and retired ironworker Paul Deer—and my personal favourite in this series—shares how things were done in the past. There was nowhere to go to learn, so the skills were shared through family. Fathers taught sons and uncles taught nephews … it was in the blood. Today, you need 1,000 hours of training along with thousands of hours more as an apprentice before you can become a certified Journeyman Ironworker.

We visit a couple of schools that provide this training in Quebec. One such program is offered jointly by Kahnawa:ke and the Local 711 Ironworkers Union. The nine-month in-class program covers the schooling and gives students an opportunity to learn their craft safely in a controlled environment. Upon completion, candidates must find their own apprenticeship positions in order to gain enough hours to finally be tested and certified.

Another program is offered in Akwesasne, offering both apprentice and probationary training for ironworkers. This allows students to receive supervised on the job training in preparation for unionization.

Some of the students are showcased, with many of them coming from long lines of ironworkers. I found it interesting that physical fitness was a part of the training program. It makes absolute sense that you be physically able to manoeuvre at the heights that these men and women do but I was surprised this was a part of the actual training.

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.


Mohawk Ironworkers — Ultimate Ironworker

We have ultimate fighters and ultimate frisbee, so it is entirely suitable that there are Ultimate Ironworker competitions too, showcased during Tuesday’s new episode of Mohawk Ironworkers.

Mike Swamp has been organizing the Ultimate Ironworker competition in Akwesasne for 13 years; the annual competition gives ironworkers the opportunity to come together and turn work into games. Competitors come from across the eastern U.S. and Canada to showcase their skills in such events as knot tying, rivet tossing and column climbing.

Among the competitors are some familiar faces, including Bill “Moon Over Manhattan” Sears from Akwesasne, but this is to be expected as this is a tightly knit community of workers. This day of competition is a celebration of skills and camaraderie, brought to life via clips from the 2015 competition, exhibiting their brotherhood. Before the games begin these hard working men and women take time to recognize those lost in the last year. One worker who was especially noticed was Angus Adams, a man whose legacy in ironworking continues in his grandson Brandon Benedict.

Tuesday’s episode, although informative, felt weak. Yes, we gained insight into the brotherhood of these brave skywalkers, and how knowledge is passed from one generation to the next. I did enjoy the segments explained by elder and retired Mohawk ironworker Paul Deer from Kahnewa:ke, listening to him explain how each of the activities related to the job.

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.


Mohawk Ironworkers recalls The World Trade Center and 9/11

As we are approaching the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 disaster, it is appropriate APTN’s Mohawk Ironworkers begins with stories of the World Trade Centre.

I have a number of friends from New York, and one who worked at  Ground Zero mere days after 9/11. When I mentioned this episode to him he said, “They [the Ironworkers] walked into the hazards side by side with firefighters and cops without hesitation. There were lives to save. A job to do.” He calls them heroes.

Peter J. Stacey, Randy J. Horn and Chris Beauvais  from Kahnawa:ke, and Bill Sears from Ahkwesahsne (who claims to be the infamous “Moon Over Manhattan”) are featured in the first segment of the debut. All were involved in the building of the original twin towers and recount their experiences during the construction, sharing a number of entertaining anecdotes. They also share grief following the destruction of the towers. For them, the loss was incredibly personal.

Chris Beauvais, who spent four long months on the cleanup and recovery, was one of the first on site following the collapse. He had been working nearby on another building at the time and explains, “All of the ironworkers went down there. That’s our job. It’s iron and we know how to play with it.”

In the third and final segment, we visit with Preston Horn, Kevin McComber and John McGowen, all from Kahnawa:ke. All three are currently working on the New World Trade Center and speak of their pride in the brotherhood of Mohawk ironworkers, and of being a part of the construction of World One.

The episode also gives a brief overview of the construction of the towers and describes the many innovative techniques that were unique to the construction of the original World Trade Center.

This was a good start to the series, demonstrating the long connection Mohawks have had with the skyline of New York City.  As we are approaching the eve of the anniversary, I would like to close simply with one other thought that my friend shared: “To those iron workers who waded into the horrors with all of us first responders … thank you.”

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.