Editor's Note: This update has been submitted by John Griffin, our guest blogger, who continues to share our community with exciting examples of how states are working hard to advance apprenticeship!
Although reeling from its worst unemployment rate in a generation, Illinois’s Registered Apprenticeship programs are working behind the scenes to prepare skilled workers for the future.
Illinois currently has 555 registered apprenticeship programs with approximately 15,080 apprentices. A large percent of the programs are registered with individual companies that may employ one or two employees, or with corporations that employ thousands. The others are affiliated with associations and/or labor organizations. Illinois is very proud of the range of occupations represented and of the high tech training centers located throughout the state. One of the largest facilities is 342,000 sq. ft., has multiple high tech labs/ classrooms and state-of-the-art equipment. Some of these high growth and emerging industries represent, from greatest to smallest, construction, advanced manufacturing, automotive, homeland security, energy, financial services and government/municipalities.
And let’s not forget about the programs that have articulation agreements or direct affiliations with a college, which allows the apprentices to continue their education and receive an associate’s degree.
Illinois is currently seeing a massive expansion in wind energy development. The state saw its first wind farm construction in 2003 and now seven years later has proposed projects that could increase the number of wind turbines erected from 705 to more than 2,772 in the next five years according to data from Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy. The Registered Apprenticeship community acted on this growth and submitted a proposal for the new apprenticeable occupation Wind Turbine Technician. Within months the Operating Engineers Local #150 Joint Apprenticeship Fund registered the first Wind Turbine Technician program in the United States. This quality training program will train apprentices to perform maintenance, operations and inspections on wind turbines and related facilities.
The state has proven to have more than just a windy city to support energy jobs, but a windy prairie. With that windy prairie sprouted another “Green” Registered Apprenticeship Program. Pizzo Ecological Restoration registered a Landscape Technician program to support their mission to restore, create and convert high maintenance low function, chemically intensive landscapes to low maintenance, highly functional natural areas. The Registered Apprenticeship System is supporting the beauty and wonder of our shared natural habitat.
Looking at solar energy, Illinois Registered Apprenticeship continues to encourage renewable energy by supporting the State of Illinois Energy Sector Partnerships and Training Grant. The Northern Illinois Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program in partnership with the Boone and Winnebago Counties Illinois Workforce Investment Board supported the initiative to train approved individuals in solar energy and to take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification exam. This will provide opportunities for the out of work participants to build skills, receive credentials and provide career pathways that could lead to opportunities with Wanxiang America Company, the new solar-panel manufacturer located in Rockford, Illinois.
Did you know that the Registered Apprenticeship programs in Illinois can be used for collecting Federal Education Benefits (GI BILL). That’s right; our agency works hand-in-hand with the Illinois State Approving Agency to support approval and assistance to those veterans using their GI Bill benefits. Currently, approximately 7% of the state’s Registered Apprentices receive these benefits and we anticipate this number growing with the recent partnership of TechWorks, Rock Valley College and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. In addition to this exciting partnership, the State of Illinois provides their employers tax credit of up to $1,200 annually for hiring Veterans of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Illinois State Approving Agency 312/814-7258 or their website at www.veterans.illinois.gov
Illinois is home to eleven YouthBuild and three Job Corp training programs. Both of these federally funded programs assist youth and young adults to strive for education and training in vocational trades/occupations. The programs provide the opportunity for trainees to earn a high school degree or GED, which contributes to their career pathway and opens up opportunities to apply for the Registered Apprenticeship programs. (Job Corp – 1/800-733-JOBS / www.jobcorp.gov or YouthBuild – 1/617-623-9900 / www.youthbuild.org)
Building equal opportunity in Illinois for women and minorities includes the recognitions of The Chicago Women in Trades, an organization that works to increase the number of women in the skilled trades and other blue collar occupations and to eliminate the barriers that prohibit women from entering and remaining in non-traditional careers, Chicagoland Construction Labor & Management Professions (CISCO) – Education to Careers program, Illinois Department of Transportation – Highway Construction Careers Training Programs, Tri-County Construction Labor Management Council Career Programs and Events in addition to numerous non-traditional career programs with community colleges, i.e., College of Dupage Non-Traditional Careers for Women, Rock Valley College – Non-Traditional Career Expo, Moraine Valley – Non-Traditional Mentoring program.
Illinois continues to recognize Registered Apprenticeship in the Federal and State Prisons. Some of the skilled occupations recognized are Animal Trainer, Automotive Mechanic, Baker, Cook, Heating and Air Conditioning Installer-Service, Maintenance (Building/Electrician/Mechanic), Tailor, Waste/Water Treatment Operators and Welder. The Offender Re-Entry program supports integration with Registered Apprenticeship and the public workforce investment system. These efforts include career awareness events and sharing Illinois’s Re-Entry Resources, which include the Federal Bonding Program, Tax Credits, Criminal Record Repository and Placement Resource Units.
For those interested to learn more about Registered Apprenticeship in Illinois -
Office of Apprenticeship State Director – David R. Wyatt 312/596-5508
Apprenticeship Information Center – Maria Caldron 312/793-6822 http://illinois-apprenticeship-information.illinois.aidpage.com/http://www.booneandwinnebagowib.org/job_apprenticeship.cfm