Learning, paying attention

Tanner Sandal, a second-year apprentice at Olympic Companies SD, was recently named the Apprentice of the Year by his team. We got a chance to sit down with him and talk about what he's building at Olympic.

 What do you do at Olympic?

As an apprentice, I build, learn and pay attention. Right now, I'm working under Dave Roth, a foreman. He has confidence in me, and to see what I can accomplish, he has given me a lot of different building tasks to perform by myself.

How did you get into construction?

I've always been around construction since I was a little kid. What led me to Olympic was that they have good benefits, consistent raises, and 401k for their employees—things that are not always easy to find in the construction world. It's stable work.

Tell us more about what you do as an apprentice.

When you start out as an apprentice, you shadow a journeyman. It's all a matter of how fast you choose to learn. If I am not paying attention to my journeyman, I wouldn't learn anything. For me personally, I am very much the "how did you do that?" kind of person—actively asking questions.
Whenever I run into something that I don't know about, I ask a lot of questions. I'm not scared to do that because that's one of the ways that I can learn.

The other way is by making mistakes, and that's a part of our world. As long as it's not a huge mistake, it's usually OK. As an apprentice, I'm just learning as much as I can before my fourth year when I become a journeyman and take on the role where I'm teaching somebody else.

How do you feel like your confidence has grown in these past two years?

On my first day on the job, steel stud framing was new to me. I had done wood framing before, and we use what they call tin snips. But I had no idea how to cut a stud. It was probably like a baby taking its first steps. I remember there was a guy there, and he was laughing and said, "Hey, man, let me show you how you do that. Because there's a little trick."

So, just little things like that have helped me grow over the past two years. For every single task that we have, even if it's cutting drywall, there's a little technique or a little something that makes it easier. My confidence is a lot better today than two years ago.

What's the rapport like with everyone on-site?

I've been on a few sites, and it's always very calm and sometimes playful. It seems like everyone enjoys going to work. Work is better when you're having fun with your co-workers, joking and laughing as you work. That's huge for a working environment and a lot of people don't understand that. I know the folks in the office organize safety meetings and picnics that keep everyone involved—things where we get to know each other a little more and deeper than just, "Hey, grab me those studs over there." I'm not afraid to make a friend at work.

What other skills are you learning in your two years with Olympic?

I hadn't done any drywall before I came to Olympic. Now, I feel pretty confident hanging drywall. I like to do that, as well as "topping out," which involves fire spraying, caulking, and stuffing. I've done a little bit of EIFS demo, but not quite enough of that yet to feel confident. There are a few things that were new to me at the current job I'm on, such as setting doors, or doing backing.

I've also been given a couple of opportunities to lead. There's been a few new crew members and the two foremen I've worked with have put the new guy with me—making me feel a little like a journeyman. It was kind of a test of my confidence, and now I have enough confidence to show them the Olympic way to do things. I'm also going to school, which is good. It's a learning environment that's through the union. I attend classes four times a year, and that gives me a little less hectic of an environment for learning. For me, I've enjoyed this time as a way to stop and relax to ask, "Okay, what are we doing?"

You were named Apprentice of the Year. How does that feel?

Yes, that just happened and it felt pretty good. I work really hard. I show up every day, as long as I'm not sick. So it felt good to be acknowledged for that. Jobs in the past have never acknowledged things like that.

That's one of those things where Olympic really makes a difference. In my eyes, Olympic just genuinely cares about keeping their employees happy. That means something to me, especially since I have a family and I have to provide.

For someone like you, who has a young family, why are these opportunities so important to your career?

We are raising four young children and have another baby on the way in April. For me personally, the opportunity to continue working and earning money is very important. Understanding that I have consistent raises or a consistent wage is very important, especially for buying a house, having a new car, having a family to take care of, and those kinds of things. It's very reassuring to know what my paycheck is going to be. And a 40-hour workweek helps a lot.

Anything else you'd like to add?

When you're an apprentice, just take your time. If this is the path you choose, then take your time. Understand that mistakes are made, but take the time to learn from them. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn.

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Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 546-8166
(952) 544-8869 (fax)


President - Michael Conroy
Chief Operating Officer - Patrick Forliti
Chief Financial Officer - Dustin Prager
- Mary Jo Lecy
Safety Director - Mike Sturgeleski

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