Change at 100 Miles an Hour

Chicago’s Pipe Fitters Local 597 trains union members on the latest technologies

In brief:

  • Local 597 trains its members in new technologies, preparing them for the future
  • That includes two courses on Bluebeam Revu
  • Technology Manager Mike Zivanovic sees a wide range of attendees in his classes

Chicago’s Pipe Fitters Local Union 597 is one of the largest locals within the United Association (UA), a North American union representing the pipe fitting, sprinkler fitting and plumbing trades. With over 10,000 members in the Chicago area, 7,000 of whom go to work every day, the union is devoted to keeping their members ready for the future.

Technology training for the future

As technology manager at the Local 597’s 200,000-square-foot training facility, Mike Zivanovic does his part to prepare Chicago pipe fitters for any and every job. Zivanovic began as a pipe fitter in the field, but his background in computer programming and networking helped him see a startling deficit in technology usage in the industry. Three years ago, he started a technology initiative at the training facility, which quickly grew into him joining the staff there full-time. In just a few years, the program has grown into one of the UA’s strongest. “We’re really trying to make a footprint when it comes to technology,” said Zivanovic, adding that they teach everything from Revit to Trimble to drone certification classes.

Bluebeam Revu in the classroom

Two of the more popular courses taught in their BIM labs focus on Bluebeam Revu. The Revu intro course has a waitlist, and there’s an advanced course in December that’s already full. That’s because “a lot of our contractors are using Bluebeam,” said Zivanovic, and some are demanding that their subcontractors use it, too. It’s no longer optional for many subs on the jobsite—it’s a requirement.

“Our members can quickly learn that first 10% of Bluebeam [Revu] on their own,” he added, “but they come to us for the other 90%. They come to learn how to be more productive and efficient with Revu and really maximize its potential.” Tradespeople must be able to use the software to access the most up-to-date digital prints out in the field. There’s also a growing need for talented people who understand the technology and the nitty-gritty of a job and can fill nontraditional roles such as virtual design director.

Training for everyone, from apprentice to journeyman

For members of Chicago’s Local Union 597, one of the most appealing aspects of Revu is its ease of use. “We have a second-year apprentice in one of our classes, along with a pipe fitter journeyman who just saw an iPad in the field with Bluebeam and he wasn’t sure what it was, so he signed up for the class. We have a general foreman who has spent 35 years in the industry. We have project managers in our course as well. We have the entire spectrum of who we have in our trades in that class. We have people who say, ‘Listen, I’ve been doing it this way for 40 years and I understand that I have to keep up, so help me, show me how.’”

The ease of use of Revu is the cherry on top, Zivanovic added. The industry is always changing, and it’s bringing change at 100 miles per hour. Zivanovic and Local 597 help make sure that all their members are ready to embrace the future, no matter how fast it arrives.