Emily Gilreath, a fourth-generation Laborers Local 338 union member, was honored as a Tradeswomen Hero by the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) awards program. She is the first St Louis Metro area tradeswoman to receive an award.
Emily, a third-year apprentice at the time of nomination, was stunned and honored to have received the recognition. Gilreath was nominated by her Apprenticeship Coordinator, Vicky McElroy, who described her as “a powerful and outgoing person, a good worker and a team player.” “She is very involved in her Union, and she gives what she gets. When in class, she strives to be a leader and is always willing to learn more”.
Gilreath has the following advice for women considering a career in the building trades, “reach for the stars – you can do whatever you put your mind to. Take credit when credit is due and keep your head up”.
NABTU’s Tradeswomen Heroes Awards program began in October 2020 and recognizes four tradeswomen each month who lead by example and perform their duties at an outstanding level. The program honors two apprentices and two journey-level workers in the United States and Canada.
During the Fall 2022 semester, Rend Lake College hosted a large Industrial Maintenance Apprenticeship group from the biggest employer in the area, Continental Tire. For the Fall 2022 term, Continental Tire has hired 15 new Industrial Maintenance Apprentices.
Continental Tire expanded its footprint in Southern Illinois to attract talent. Through the Illinois Apprenticeship Expansion Grant, Rend Lake College and Kaskaskia College have blurred the community college district lines to help employers in Southern Illinois. With Continental Tire, for example, college professors and staff from Rend Lake College and Kaskaskia College worked together to align and ensure the curriculum in the Industrial Maintenance program at both institutions is identical and interchangeable. Timelines and student outcomes are matched so Student-Apprentices can take what they learn in the classroom to the job site regardless of the classroom location. This alliance allows students from both college districts to be in the same cohort group at Continental Tire as both colleges are giving the same experience at the same time. Students from both colleges are able to work alongside one another to ensure that they have similar experiences in the classroom and bring similar knowledge to the job site.
Continental Tire is reaching an even larger workforce area and talent pool. The Illinois Apprenticeship Expansion Grant touches the lives of many students enrolled in the Apprenticeship Program allowing for gainful employment while learning a trade. Forecasts continually show that skilled labor and trade jobs will be in demand in the coming years. Continental Tire is blazing a trail for other businesses to follow by offering this apprenticeship opportunity and providing these individuals the chance to receive a quality education from one of two institutions that are making strides in ensuring the education they provide is both relevant and invaluable in a job market that struggles to maintain a steady flow of talent.
Rend Lake College has named alumnus, Brody Wilson the new Apprenticeship Coordinator. Brody started his new post effective May 1, 2022.
After graduating from Rend Lake College he completed a BA in English from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Brody returned to Rend Lake College in 2020 working in the Student Records Department as a Records Specialist before making the move to Apprenticeship Coordinator this May.
Brody jumped right into his new role as Apprenticeship Coordinator by registering returning and current Apprentices for their degree path coursework for the Fall 2022 term. Brody is looking forward to learning more about how Apprenticeships can provide a pipeline of talent to our area employers. So far, he enjoys interacting and meeting the needs of the Apprentice-Student, helping them navigate and balance college life and work life and promoting registered Apprenticeship opportunities at Rend Lake College.
Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance began an Apprenticeship program with the Illinois Rural Water Association after a referral from Illinois Department of Human Services – Rehabilitation Services. This project helped start a Water Systems Operation Specialist Apprenticeship with five water districts in Central Illinois. The water industry is unique in that it involves the daily responsibilities of public health protection, technical operations, and maintenance of critical but unseen infrastructure.
It takes more than 380,000 highly skilled water and wastewater personnel to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water and to protect our lakes, streams, and groundwater. Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training required of individuals in this industry. Water professionals are ultimately responsible for meeting stringent regulatory standards, replacing aging infrastructure, recruiting and training new operations specialists, and responding to and recovering from disaster. Jeff Tumiati, the Apprenticeship Coordinator for the Illinois Water Association said, “There is such a workforce shortage and this program has impacted each local community greatly because in two and half years each community will have a Water/Wastewater Specialist that can handle the operations of water facilities and support their infrastructure.
In addition to increasing professional demands, utilities will soon be forced to replace many of their most experienced employees. Over the next decade, the water sector is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of the workforce due to retirement. Many of these employees have worked at the same facility for the majority of their careers and they will depart with decades of valuable institutional knowledge. Due to these issues, Tumiati stated, “Partnering with the workforce system is overall a great deal. This project impacted the apprentices in each community with financial help and resources that we did not otherwise know about. Also, Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance was very easy to work with and helped whenever we needed assistance.”
This innovative project is the perfect example of what the local workforce areas do throughout the State. This apprenticeship has led to the training and employment of five full-time Water Systems Operation Specialists. Their training and education, all due to partnering with Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance, will impact communities in Central Illinois for many years to come.