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Construction Workers Improve Walkway by Field

Workers were busy breaking away rock and digging out concrete fittings for a project at the JALC softball complex Wednesday. (Logan Media Services photo)

Workers were busy breaking away rock and digging out concrete fittings for a project at the JALC softball complex Wednesday. (Logan Media Services photo)

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Eighteen Southern Illinois workers with the Highway Construction Careers Training Program battled 90-degree temperatures Thursday in building a new walkway behind one of the dugouts at the John A. Logan College softball complex.

Workers first dug a footing and then poured and spread concrete mix to form fit.

HCCTP instructor Ron Gibbens said some of the crew are disenfranchised workers from a previous employer. Others, he said, had been previously incarcerated and are learning a new trade.

“When this field was remodeled (after the storm of 2009), the area behind the dugout got left out,” Gibbens said. “We basically wanted to fix things up a little.”

Gibbens added that HCCTP workers have been involved in other projects on the Logan campus in recent years, as well as off-campus projects like Habitat for Humanity.

Here, workers collect concrete mix in wheelbarrows before spreading it into the footing. (Logan Media Services photo)

Here, workers collect concrete mix in wheelbarrows before spreading it into the footing. (Logan Media Services photo)

Travis Farris is an Anna native who now resides in Marion. The 25-year-old said he is thankful for the opportunity to be involved in the specialized training.

“I have learned so much – from basic carpentry skills to pouring concrete. I definitely plan to turn what I have learned and make it into a career. If not for this opportunity, I’d probably be working at a fast-food restaurant somewhere.”

JALC employee and HCCTP Coordinator Mark Etters said HCCTP began as a spin-off of a training program started in 2006 under a Department of Economic Opportunity grant at Lincoln Land Community College. It became known as the Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Construction Careers Training Program funded in the fall of 2010 and administered by the Illinois Community College Board.

Seven additional community colleges, including Logan, started new HCCTPs over the last three years, and there are now 12 schools in all statewide participating.

In general, Etters said, the program is designed to increase access to highway construction jobs for minorities, women and disadvantaged individuals. The HCCTP emphasizes life-long learning and provides opportunities for further education and assistance to improve employability in the state’s highway construction industry.

Here, workers begin spreading and smoothing the poured concrete to form. (Logan Media Services photo)

Here, workers begin spreading and smoothing the poured concrete to form. (Logan Media Services photo)

Each community college holds one-to-five training sessions per year in which individuals receive intensive training in highway construction-related skills, such as mathematics the trades, job readiness, carpentry, concrete flatwork, blueprint reading orientation, introduction to tools, equipment operation and OSHA certification.

“Beyond that, each community college provides its graduates with assistance in obtaining placement in Illinois’ highway construction trade unions, apprentice programs and/or with IDOT highway construction contractors,” Etters said.

Etters said HCCTP at Logan serves IDOT’s District 9 area. The college hosts two 16-week, 450-hour classroom and hands-on training sessions each year – one in the fall semester and one in the spring. Funding is currently available for up to 24 students per session. Applicants go through an orientation/interview process prior to class. Students that do enter HCCTP are subject to the program’s attendance and drug screening policies, which mirror that of the highway construction industry.

Since 2010, Etters said JALC has enrolled 166 HCCTP students, graduated 108, and successfully placed 28 in highway construction jobs. Additionally, another 17 graduates have landed jobs in other areas outside of the boundaries of the highway construction industry. Candidates for inclusion must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED, valid driver’s license and consent to drug screening.

For more information, contact Etters at 985-2828, X8643.