MARION (WSIL) -- An apprenticeship program being offered through Laborers Local 773 to high school students is giving them a head start for a career in the trades.
News 3 has been following the program since its start and is following up to see how some of the first students to join are doing now.
One of those is Wyatt Krawczyk, who graduated from Vienna High School.
In 2018, he just one of 13 to be in the first class of the program along with other juniors from Marion, Herrin and Johnston City.
Krawczyk can recall why he wanted to undergo the application process to be considered.
"I was like alright, I'll give it a shot," he says. "I didn't really know what I was walking into. I had a couple buddies went with me, we all went in together."
After being accepted, Krawczyk can remember the first day of class and it having a different feel than traditional high school courses.
"From the first time being there I could tell I was gonna love it," he says, "You weren't gonna sit in class all day, you're gonna move around and do stuff hands on."
The opportunity also came with a lot of commitment and hard work.
Those in the apprenticeship had to arrive to the training facility much earlier than the bell would ring for their fellow classmates.
"We had to be up there by at least 7-7:30 a.m. and I had to get up at about 5 because I live a little further from Marion," he says about the drive from where he lived in Vienna at the time.
The first year of the program focuses on safety procedures such as OSEA.
Then when the students are seniors, they learn valuable skills like how to
dismantle bridges, GPS training, construction math and blue print reading.
"We did a lot of concrete in our classwork," Krawczyk says about the experience. "There's concrete 1 and concrete 2."
Throughout the program students earn high school and apprenticeship credit.
Once they graduate high school, participants only need to finish a few more apprenticeship classes and get on the job training to become a full-paid Laborer.
There's also the opportunity to earn an associate's degree at no cost to program participants.
However, Krawzyzk says he wanted to start working right away and that the college just isn't the right for him.
Currently, he's working for Marion Concrete Construction and finishing his last few apprenticeship courses.
"They're guiding me down the line," he says of his more experienced co-workers. "There's some things I knew, and they're showing me new things everyday."
When News 3 caught up with Krawczyk, the teen had been pouring concrete for a new parking lot for Ferrell Hospital in Eldorado.
"Right now I'm 19 making $28 an hour, I can eventually move up to make more money," he explains. "I'm also paying into a pension, annuity and health insurance."
Along Krawczyk, Fisher Terrill is also a part of the program's first class.
He's gaining his on the job training working as a laborer for Illini Asphalt and is happy with the career path that he's chosen.
Instructor Joe Davis is proud of his students, especially Krawczyk and Terrill for continuing the program after graduating.
"I would love for them all to be laborers, but we also like to teach them life skills here."
Davis adds that all of his students, past and present, have his support along with that of the Union.
"This is a Brotherhood, Sisterhood. I mean we're family," he says. "We're there for each other all the time and to have the younger generation care as much as what the older people do."
A bond that Krawczyk knows that he can rely on.
"You always have someone behind your back," he adds. "Every time, everyday."
The program has grown to 7 area high schools participating, the farthest away being Cairo.