Painters and tapers training center hires Phelps as new coordinator

Jim Phelps is the new apprenticeship coordinator at the Painters & Drywall Finishers Regional Training Center. He succeeds Bill Regan, who retired (see related article).

Jim Phelps

Phelps, 45, was the construction and maintenance training administrator at Hawaiian Electric Co., where he oversaw a program of 250 apprentices training to be outside linemen. Prior to that he taught school in Hawaii for nearly 10 years. He left the classroom for a job designing and developing curriculum for the Hawaiian school district. That led to the position at Hawaiian Electric.

“My education path and my construction path, it all came together,” he said.

A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Phelps followed in his father’s footsteps as a school teacher. “My father was an educator, and he built homes in the summer,” he said. “As a kid, I would help him build houses. I learned alot from him.”

Phelps received an academic scholarship to the University of South Dakota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary education.

After college he moved to Hawaii to teach. His brother went with him, and together they co-owned a successful remodeling and construction company.

Phelps recently decided to return to the mainland to accommodate his growing family. During a job search, he saw that the Painters and Tapers apprenticeship program in Oregon was looking for a new coordinator.

“I saw what they were doing here and I was very impressed,” he said.

Phelps says he’s still in a bit of a learning curve for the painting industry, but it’s been made much easier because of the knowledgeable staff that’s already in place—office manager Joanne Nordquist, secretary Connie Benson, and full-time instructor Harry Kalin.

“They are fantastic,” he said. “I call us the Core 4.”

Phelps takes over a 7,440 square-foot training center that features a state-of-the-art blasting booth to teach sandblasting, a full spray booth, and the latest model virtual spray machine, which simulutes and scores how well you apply paint to a surface.

Kalin and seven part-time instructors (all journeyman members of Painters and Drywall Finishers Local 10), teach all the nuances of faux finishes, and a couple instructors even teach the lost art of paint color mixing (most of which is now computerized).

On the drywall finishing side there are structural wall mockups and rolling modules that feature every interior angle and curve known.

“I feel very fortunate to be coming in at this time, when this is all coming together,” Phelps said. “We have powerful training tools here—things that not many other training centers have. I tip my hat to the JATC board for that.”

Phelps says his primary goal  will be to make apprentices and journey workers the best that they can be. The training center  offers continuing education classes for journey-level painters and tapers.

“I want to keep this going,” he said. “We are never too old to stop learning new skills.”

Phelps lives in Vancouver, Wash., with his wife and two  children, ages 5 and 2.

New painters and tapers apprenticeship coordinator Jim Phelps gets acquainted with the state-of-the-art training center in Northeast Portland.

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