Recently Local 701 was honored to host U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois State Senator Tom Cullerton of Illinois’ 23rd District for a tour of Local 701’s Apprenticeship Training Center in Carol Stream, IL. Local 701’s Directing Business Representative Sam Cicinelli extended the invitation to Senator Durbin and Illinois Senator Cullerton in the hopes that these two friends of Labor would have the opportunity to explore new ideas on moving the program forward.
The group started with a round table discussion with Senators Durbin and Cullerton about the challenges facing our industry, the extreme shortage of qualified technicians in the field and the lack of young people entering the trade. “It is a real challenge facing our trade right now” explained DBR Cicinelli “not only can we not fill the existing openings in our shops but we aren’t seeing enough young people entering the trade.”
Training Center lead instructor Louie Longi explained the issues facing young people wanting to get into the trade explaining that many local High Schools have unfortunately cut their Industrial Arts and Automotive programs all together and the soaring costs of for profit technical training schools are making it harder and harder for our youth to get into the industry.
“Some of these kids are showing up in our shops buried with 30 to 40 thousand dollars in debt after graduating from the for-profit trade schools only to find out that most employers will only hire them on at entry level positions. The wages their being hired at are significantly lower than what they expected.” said Local 701 Business Representative Bill LePinske. He added “many of these kids get frustrated quickly and wind up leaving the industry.”
Lead Training Instructor Louie Longhi spoke at length about the advantages of attending the Local 701 Apprenticeship Program over for-profit trade schools, explaining that with our program we work to place each student in a shop while they attend our training so that they can practice on the job what they are learning in the classroom. “The cost is also a huge factor, with for profit schools charging upwards of $30,000, students in our Program stand to save a lot of money too with an estimated three year cost of only $950” said Longhi.
Business Representative and GM World Class Technician Mark Grasseschi, formally a Chevrolet Technician at Phillips Chevrolet in Frankfort, IL explained the amount of training that technicians in our industry must go through every year just to stay current with all the fast changing technologies. “Over the years I have taken literally hundreds of classes with General Motors to stay current and maintain my Senior Master Technician Certification” said Grasseschi.
After a lengthy discussion about the issues facing recruiting new workers into our industry, Senator Durbin and State Senator Cullerton took a full tour of the training center where they had the opportunity to see some of the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that our students use to learn. Senator Durbin took a few moments to talk to current student Tim Richards who is attending the program now while he works at Elgin Toyota. “I was going to school to become a law enforcement officer and decided I wanted to take a different path and get into automotive” said Richards.
After the tour, Durbin and Cullerton stayed to have lunch and share their thoughts about the program and their ideas on moving forward. “This is really a no brainer” Said Durbin, “everyone wins with your program, the students are getting a quality education for a fraction of the cost and employers are getting highly trained technicians trained by professional mechanics.”
Senator Durbin also explained an interesting fact about federal student loans, while only 25% of all federal student loans went to for profit schools, they account for nearly 1/3 of all student loan defaults and he saw programs like ours as a potential way to help that situation as well.
Durbin and Cullerton went on to share their ideas about getting returning veterans involved with our program and trying to get our information out to more high school aged students who are making career plans for after high school and also expressed their interest in helping Local 701 gain access to potential grant monies that could be used to grow the program.
Also in attendance was IAM Midwest Territory Chief-Of-Staff Steve Galloway, a long time supporter of Local 701’s training program, “Local 701’s apprenticeship program has set the bar for the Machinists Union and the Midwest Territory” said Galloway, “Senator Durbin’s tour of the training center is a clear indication that Local 701 is on the forefront of satisfying the growing demand for qualified technicians in the Chicagoland area by having the Union provide the necessary training needed to bring workers into their industry.”
Ironically enough, while writing this article I received three phone calls from employers seeking qualified Journeyman technicians who were all directed to Local 701’s Jobs website “701 Job Net” HERE.
Anyone interested in getting information about the Local 701 Apprenticeship Training Center can click HERE to visit the website.