Class of 2017 Apprentice Graduates: Front Row Left to Right: Tracy Coats, Angela Friend, Amber Williams, Kevin Bonnett; Back Row Left to Right: Andrew Seals and Tanner Stout
Tracy Coats Degree
A Laborers’ apprenticeship is not only a decent career path, it’s also a higher education path. Tracy Coats, who completed her Laborers apprenticeship in November 2017, also completed an Associates degree at Heartland Community College in December. The community college recognized her Laborers training hours as equivalent to college credit. Coats had to take extra classes in math, English and science to gain her Associate’s degree. She completed those classes at Illinois Central College. “I wanted an Associate’s Degree,” she said. “I had the hour, I had to take a few extra classes. I’m hoping this will push me toward other opportunities, along with the combined experience in my field.” Coats said she enjoys outdoor work; “Laborers work is different all the time; I’m not an inside person,” she noted. She worked on pipelines and a variety of other projects. Laborers Local 231 business manager Bob Schroeder commended Coats. “Going through a successful apprenticeship takes self-initiative and a willingness to tackle different kinds of work. Tracy Coats went above and beyond that, using her Laborer apprenticeship hours to complete this degree. That shows initiative and a worker willing to go the extra mile. This makes Laborers 231 proud. She is an asset for any contractor who engages her.”
Members of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 231 listen. And learn. Training provides the required broad range of skills necessary as the Laborers are the one building trade which must work effectively with all other trades. To gain the skills they need, ongoing training provides the skills required for professional construction.
Lifelong learning sets the members of Local 231 apart. Does your project require safety with a sign or a flag? The proper ventilation required in a confined space work area? Union Laborers learn beyond the proper technique. Local 231 members are committed to the common goal of profitable, safe, and successful projects.
“The quality of our work is subject to public scrutiny every day,” says Business Manager for Local 231, Bob Schroeder. The visible, public results which demonstrate the skill of Local 231 members has adorned the west central Illinois region for 75 years. “We work hard,” Schroeder adds, “to make sure our members get the proper training.”
The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) in 1997 awarded the Illinois Laborers’ and Contractors’ Training Trust Fund a Certificate of Registration for Apprenticeship Training for the trade of Construction Craft Laborer.
Soon after the BAT awarded the certification the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC)—composed of members of both the Laborers and contractors—began conducting the four-year apprenticeship program at the Tony Romolo facility in Mt. Sterling. Many members of Local 231 have undergone countless hours of training at the state-of-the-art facility.
The signatory contractors and construction customers in west central Illinois can rely on the members of Local 231 to provide the value they seek. The members understand the investment in training pays future dividends and contribute almost a dollar for every hour worked into the training fund. Coupled with the contractors’ contributions the two jointly fund the Romolo training center.
While visiting the excellent JATC in Mt. Sterling, General President of LIUNA, Terrence O’Sullivan commented, “Training and education is the corner stone of our union. That’s what separates us from our competition.”
As Schroeder says, the members of Local 231 constantly upgrade skills because, “We do logistics for every trade.” Laborers have to be trained in so many aspects of the building trades because they also do support for the other trades like scaffolds, road safety, cleanup and many more essential duties. And as Schroeder adds, “all of which contributes to a successful project.”
The strong emphasis on skill and quality brings welcome relief to the signatory contractors and construction customers Local 231 serves. The acquired skill the Local 231 members bring to the job creates value and reduces costs.
“Every year our members work on hundreds of projects that come in under budget,” Schroeder says. “Skilled labor is less expensive because whatever the contractors ask our members do, they do it right the first time. And the customer gets a guarantee.”
No doubt the signatory contractors maintain a highly visible presence within the professional construction industry. “Customers know they can contact our contractors,” Schroeder says. “That way the customer has someone they can talk to. They don’t have to worry the company will be out of business in a couple of years when they want the next project built. Plus customers will know the quality of work they can expect by the past projects the contractors have completed,” adding, “at Local 231 we stand behind our work.”
Safety also plays a role in a successful project. According to Schroeder Local 231 places a focus on safety to protect the members and help shield the contractors from lost-time accidents. “We spend considerable time and effort to ensure our members know how to work safe and how to make the job site a safer environment.”
As the field of professional construction expands through improved technology, processes, tools and materials the members of Local 231 stand prepared to meet the challenges of the future.
“Thanks to the Romolo center, Laborers are in a position to train in all areas and aspects of the professional construction industry,” Schroeder says. “We’re going to grow our membership and we’re going to continue providing the best Laborers in west central Illinois.”
The Laborers JATC in Mt. Sterling offers both apprentices and journeymen more than a wide range of skills and upgrades ranging from safety techniques to specific skills. The JATC provides members the ability to transform their job into a professional career.
Apprentices undergo 448 hours of instruction in three phases. As an example, Phase One training (168 hours), includes both classroom and hands-on: Craft Orientation and Safety Training; Practices and Procedures of Mason Tending; Concrete Practices and Procedures; and Asphalt Technology and Construction. Phase Two training (120 hours) includes: Asbestos Worker; Blueprint Reading; and Principles of Pipelaying. Phase Three (160 hours) includes: Bridge Construction; Grade Checking; and Labs/AGC Hazardous Waster Worker.
A partial list of the classes available for the Local 231 members at the Laborers JATC in Mt. Sterling includes: asbestos worker, asphalt, blueprint reading, concrete specialist, construction math, cutting and coring, framing I and II, OSHA 30-hour, Symon forms, scaffolds, pipeline safety and many more. To accommodate specific needs of signatory contractors the JATC also conducts off-site classes.
So when the signatory contractors and construction customers seek the highest quality and value for their project, they know they can count on the members of Laborers Local 231 to deliver a professional product.