Unemployed veterans in southern Illinois had a chance to learn more about the career opportunities available in the construction trade.
The Illinois Laborers' Union and the Illinois Department of Employment Security hosted a job fair Friday at the Laborers' Training Center in Marion.
Laborers and Contractors Training and Apprenticeship Program assistant administrator Griffin Goetz says it's been a rough four years due to a lack of work. But, he says the new capital program will change that and bring a need for more workers.
"With the $45 billion the state has dedicated to infrastructure improvement, coupled witht the Walker's Bluff Casino, the new SIU Communications Building and hopefully the port down in Cairo, we're looking at some phenomenal years to come for our members."
Rick Sarensen helps area veterans as a career coach with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
"If they need practice with their interviewing skills. If they need help getting their DD214, which is part of the application process, how to fill out the application and everything and paying attention to detail."
The three-year Veterans' Preference Apprenticeship Program consists of 600 hours of classroom instruction coupled with three-thousand hours of on-the-job training. It also involves the opportunity to earn an Associate's Degree from Shawnee Community College. Shawnee College Dean of Workforce Innovation says Gregory Mason says they want to help veterans find a pathway to a career in construction.
"Using their apprenticeship/labor experience combined with the degree program to then move to more advanced degrees if they want or more business opportunities by having both the practical skills and the classroom skills."
U.S. Navy veteran Sammy Issawi from Carmi just lost his factory job. He attended the veteran's job fair. Issawi says he's interested in working for the union and the educational component is an added benefit.
"Having an associate's degree would be nice, instead of checking the box of a high school diploma every time. I have some college credits from the military, but never enough to get a degree. So, it'd be nice to finish something."
Issawi says he has an interview at Wal-Mart on Saturday and hopes to work there through the winter and enter the apprenticeship program in the spring.