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EDUCATION AND TRAINING Building tunnels and building lives Nov 2012
Francis Zamora, Liaison Officer, New Irvington Tunnel Project
Attracting young engineers to the specialised construction field of tunnelling is recognised as a top priority by the industry, with efforts being led at the highest level by the ITACET Foundation under the auspices of the ITA. The Foundation was established in 2009 to respond to the urgent need for qualified tunnelling engineers and workers worldwide. In this special report Francis Zamora of the New Irvington Tunnel Project in San Francisco reports how a commitment from contractors to recruit and train locally has paid dividends.
Robert Shumate (right) with Tunnel Superintendant Jack Bowling

Robert Shumate (right) with Tunnel Superintendant Jack Bowling

A commitment from tunnelling contractor Southland Tutor Perini to recruit locally for a percentage of its workforce on San Francisco's New Irvington water tunnel project has given one engineer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the underground.
In the fall of 2011, Robert Shumate, a recent graduate of Alameda County's Cypress Mandela Training Center, attended the Miner Tender Preparedness Program. Shortly afterwards he put his training to the ultimate test at the New Irvington Tunnel Project.
He quickly excelled and gained the trust of his peers, learning all aspects of working in the extremely challenging and potentially dangerous conditions. Robert came to work each day with a positive attitude and a great work ethic, and within a short period of time, he was not only working on a tunnelling project, but in a live tunnel environment, a feat which surpassed the expectations of his training. In addition to providing a stable income for himself and his family, Robert gained unique work skills specific to tunnelling, making him a hot commodity in the industry and open to a wide range of work opportunities across the nation.
Robert's success is a testament to his hard work. His opportunity to shine was made possible by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SPFUC) and Southland Tutor Perini's (STP) commitment to hire locally for the US$4.6 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP). In addition to Robert, half of the New Irvington Tunnel Project's workforce is made up of local residents. This is in line with quotas set by the SFPUC's local hire program, and agreed by all contractors it engages.
"Southland is enthusiastic about tapping into the Bay Area's talented and diverse workforce," said Michael Cash, Regional Manager for Southland Contracting. "In addition to exceptional people like Robert, we've also provided nearly $10 million in construction contracts to local small businesses."
The SFPUC is committed to training future members of the Bay Area's workforce. The WSIP goal is to have one apprentice worker for every four journeyman workers on each capital improvement project. Tunnelling is not an apprenticable trade so this contractor made sure to place junior workers in above ground roles and has exceeded this goal with 32% of workers in apprentice positions.
New Irvington tunnel progress to date

New Irvington tunnel progress to date

The Job Training Opportunity Program (JTOP) where Robert gained his training is a great example of how the SFPUC, contractors, unions, and community-based organisations partner to create opportunities for local residents to receive the skills, training, and support necessary to help them attain successful and sustainable careers in construction.
Robert recently reached another major milestone by completing all apprentice hours required for Journey-level status. He is now one of the elite tunnelling workers in his union and shares a proud heritage with the many other underground workers before him.
The New Irvington Tunnel Project is a key part of the SFPUC's US$4.6 billion Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) to repair, replace, and seismically upgrade the ageing Hetch Hetchy Water System. WSIP includes more than 80 projects spanning seven counties from the Central Valley to Downtown San Francisco. In July 2010 the SFPUC awarded a US$226.6 million contract for the New Irvington Tunnel Project to a JV of Southland and Tutor Perini to provide a seismically upgraded connection between water supplies from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Alameda Watershed to Bay Area water distribution systems.
The new tunnel, being constructed by roadheader and conventional drill+blast, is 3.5 miles (5.6km) long and has an i.d. of 8.5-10.5ft (2.6-3.2m). It will run parallel to the existing tunnel between the Sunol Valley, south of Highway I-680, and Fremont, California, and is scheduled for completion in early 2014.
As at November 6 (2012), a total of 12,357ft has been excavated out of a total 18,600ft (Fig 1).
References
ITACET Training Foundation established - TunnelCast, December 2010
Prospects and pay scales attract new recruits - TunnelTalk, August 2012
ITACET training course attracts global audience - TunnelTalk, May 2012
UK tunnel safety and training schemes in focus - TunnelTalk, August 2011
Kuala Lumpur opens tunnel training academy - TunnelTalk, December 2011
Master course in NATM tunnelling - TunnelCast, August 2011
UK MSc course for Masters in tunnelling - TunnelTalk, July 2011
RETC tour of New Irvington Tunnel Project - TunnelCast, June 2011

           

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