This is National Apprenticeship Week and leaders from across southern Illinois met Thursday at the Laborers' Training Center in Marion, home of the Illinois Laborers' and Contractors Apprenticeship Program.
Jerry Womick is the business manager for Laborers' Local 773. He says it's a two-year high school program.
"They start as juniors and finish their senior year. They come here two hours a day. There's a lot of classroom training, plus hands-on. After the two years, there's no guarantee of employment, but they have the skills and training."
The hands-on portion of the Construction Craft Preparation Program offers students a chance to learn skills such as how to lay pipe, build a bridge and read blueprints. Vienna High School senior Wyatt Krawczyk says it's a well-rounded program.
"Right now, we're doing Concrete 2. Last year, as juniors, we did Concrete 1. So, basically, we're just finishing up some concrete we did last year. Now, we're doing gutters and curbs outside. We never did those last year."
Fisher Terrill is a senior at Johnston City High School. He says this is a great opportunity for him.
"I wasn't exactly sure where I wanted to go, working in the future, after high school and everything. I didn't know if college was going to be it or not. But, now I see I can do college and come back and do what I really want to do."
The students in the apprenticeship program also get 30 credit hours towards a Construction Management Associates Degree at Shawnee Community College.
Womick says they're trying to make young people aware of the opportunities in the trades since the average age in the apprenticeship program is 31. He says they're looking now at promoting the program to junior high school students.
"We're finding now that high school is a lot better. But, we need to go even younger and start getting people thinking that way from an even earlier age."
Students from Vienna, Herrin, Johnston City, Goreville and Cairo High Schools currently participate in the program.