Interview with Daniel Ronda, Lead Curriculum Developer, Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute
What’s the best decision you’ve made while working in construction? For Daniel Ronda, Lead Apprenticeship and Technology Instructor at Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute (PNCI), it was getting rid of paper.
With twenty years of experience in the field, Daniel has seen his share of paper trails, noting, “Paper, paper, and more paper. That’s just the way it was.”
Having worked his way up from Apprentice to Foreman to Superintendent, Daniel has also witnessed just how critical digitalization is to productivity. Today, he is helping to guide the next generation of builders, including introducing them to game-changing technology solutions to get rid of paper in construction and other inefficient processes. “I’m no longer building buildings, but building people.”
In our latest Behind the Build spotlight, Daniel shares how he got started in the industry and why he’s passionate about building the next generation of leaders at PNCI.
Tell us more about PNCI?
At PNCI, we are affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) There is a misconception that we are a union training center. In reality, we are a state apprenticeship program, registered and regulated by the state of Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. While the majority of our trainees are union members, the apprenticeship program is open to anybody.
That being said, we are the largest apprenticeship program in the state of Oregon at roughly 1,700 apprentices currently in our program. The apprenticeship program is a four-year program and works as a partnership between us and the contractors who provide on the job training. Throughout the four years of apprenticeship, we only get to see the apprentices 16 times for very specialized training. They get the majority of the training out on the jobsite.
In addition to our apprenticeship program, we also provide a broad spectrum of continuing education training, for apprentices all the way through superintendents and project managers. In all, we offer nearly 140 different continuing education courses.
What’s your role at PNCI?
I came on as a full-time carpenter instructor, just under six years ago. When I started, there was a need to develop a more standardized curriculum. We had lots of projects, drawings, textbooks and other course materials, but it wasn’t put together consistently.
I saw that we were using some hand-drawn sketches for our shop projects and I thought that we could improve on that to give our apprentices more of a real jobsite experience. So that’s how it really started; I started to redo the hand-drawn sketches in the form of multi-sheet PDF drawings. As a result, I went from a full-time instructor to a part-time instructor and part-time curriculum developer. Last year, I was promoted to lead curriculum coordinator, and now I’m overseeing the development of curriculum for all six of our trades.
Why do you work in construction?
I love working in construction because of the immense amount of satisfaction and accomplishment I feel at the end of every day. For 20 years, I worked in the field bringing buildings out of the ground. I get a kick out of driving by buildings and saying, “I built that.” Now that I am in the business of training carpenters, I’m no longer building buildings, but building people and still going home with that same satisfaction and sense of accomplishment…every day.
What do you love the most about the industry?
Growing up the son of a contractor, I have been on or around construction sites most of my life. Truth be told, though, if someone had told me when I was a kid that I’d end up in construction, I would have told them there was “no way!”
I guess, as a fourth generation carpenter, construction is in my blood. That being said, I love this industry because I enjoy bringing things together and make things work. It’s what we do–we make things work, and make them work right.
I also love engaging and interacting with people. In my job, I get to work with one of the best training organizations in the U.S. I love the training aspect and being able to interact with the new generation of tradespeople. I like to think that we’re training the next generation of leaders and decision makers in this industry. Being able to have that kind of impact, gets me excited about waking up in the morning.
How has technology changed the way you work?
Paper, paper and more paper. That’s just the way it was. With the technology available today, not only is everything at our fingertips, but communication is faster and clearer, the organization is easier and processes are smoother. We can maintain a higher level of efficiency in our daily work processes through increased productivity and decreased error and rework.
I consider myself a technology geek. Right after high school, I was an electronic technician in the Navy, which gave me a solid background. So in addition to developing the curriculum, I’m evaluating how we can also integrate technology into it.
How has PlanGrid helped?
In our apprenticeship classes, we’re using PlanGrid to deliver the course content. Before PlanGrid, my prep work for conducting a lesson or project would take a tremendous amount of time. I’d have to make sure I had enough copies of the drawings and documents for everyone. I had to make sure I had a copy of the digital documents on my computer, my iPad and in the field kiosk. With PlanGrid, I have access to everything I need in one location… and so does everyone else who needs it. Incidentally, PlanGrid is also one of our continuing education classes at PNCI.
What advice do you have for the next generation of builders?
I give all my apprentices the same advice. There’s a real danger in feeling like you have arrived because you’ll stop growing. Even 20 years in the trade and as an instructor, I still haven’t arrived.
Don’t be closed to what you can learn. For instance, if you’re a superintendent, don’t think you can’t learn something from an apprentice. Just never stop growing and learning. There are always opportunities broaden your horizons.