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Apprenticeship program garners support as need for labor set to increase

MARION (WSIL) — With the recent passage of a $45 billion infrastructure bill, Illinois is expected to see a rapid increase in demand for construction laborers.  

"I get my son, ride, say, ‘Hey, daddy helped build this bridge,’ it’s kind of rewarding," said McKinley Duncan.

He’s seven months into a three-year apprenticeship training program, one that is already providing a paycheck. "In this career you have a chance to make some money and take care of your family– you have good benefits."

Duncan is just one of approximately 500 future Journeymen participating in a state-wide program, which has a facility in southern Illinois.  

Assistant Administrator Griffin Goetz said the path to completion requires hard work and dedication. He said the pay increases each year of the program with the first year apprentice earning 75 percent of the full Journeyman rate, increasing to 95 percent in their third year.

"Until they get the 600 hours of classroom and 3,000 hours of on-the-job training, then they become a Journeymen," said Goetz. "They’re building our roads, our bridges, our schools, our courthouses and our homes."

While job placement depends on demand, Goetz says that demand is climbing.

"What’s really positive right now, is with the passage of the capital bill — the $45 billion capital bill — we are going to see construction boom in southern Illinois," said Goetz.

The coming boom is not lost on locals leaders who gathered in Marion Thursday to show their support of the program. This week marks the 5th anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week and mayors from the surrounding region were there to show their support.

Sesser Mayor Jason Ashmore said they need to work together to encourage students who aren’t heading to college to take a look at the apprenticeship program.

"Because they lead to jobs that have great pay and benefits and that’s something that we all need in southern Illinois, and the jobs are here," said Ashmore. "So, the city of Sesser and the southern Illinois Mayor Association 100 percent support these apprenticeship programs."

Currently, Marion has a class of 15 students from area high schools moving through the program. Herrin Junior Tyric Davis says he has one more year in the program. He is set to graduate high school in 2021 with a direct path into the workforce.

"It’s a lot of hard work but I just love doing it," said Davis.

Vienna high school senior Alex Miller agreed, "Get involved in this program. It’s definitely a great thing that’s happened to me."

Those who complete the three-year Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program will earn 30 college credits through Shawnee Community College’s construction management program.

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